FO: Black Cherry Tart

When I bound off this cowl, I was certain that there was enough cold weather still ahead to ensure that it would be worn a few times before being retired for the season. But then it took a few days for me to block it, weave in the ends, photograph it, box it up with a few other goodies, and get it in the mail, and by the time it landed in my sister’s hands I’m afraid the weather had already taken a decidedly spring-like turn. Luckily for me, this is one of those very rare occasions when it really was the thought that counted more than the gift itself: my sister was having a miserable week at work, and an unexpected package on her doorstep was just the pick-me-up she needed.

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Pattern: Improvised
Yarn: Berroco® Vintage® Chunky, 6181 Black Cherry

It probably won’t surprise you that there is no pattern for this cowl, since it’s just 1×1 ribbing and seed stitch. I didn’t even note how many stitches I cast on. I know that it was more than the Bandanna Cowl, because I felt that design was a little snug and the women in my family don’t like things too close around their necks.

From there, I knit a sufficiently deep ribbing (sufficiency being purely subjective in this instance), weighed it, then knit merrily around until I had about that weight of yarn remaining, knit another band of ribbing, and bound off. Completed, it’s tall enough to pull up over the nose but short enough scrunch down under the chin.

I was concerned that the bind off would be inflexible, but after trying several I discovered that it was possible for even a tight knitter like me to bind off too loosely. Even after settling on a slightly firmer bind off method—the Lace Bind Off from Leslie Ann Bestor’s Cast On, Bind Off—you can tell that that edge is stretchier than the cast on, which is at the top of the piece in the photos.

Although the photo above shows the stitches much more clearly, the photo below is a more accurate representation of the color. At least, the bottom center is. I’ve heard reds are devilishly tricky to photograph, but I feel like the sunlight and my camera were being especially uncooperative. (I’d like to think my camera’s days are numbered, but that might be overly optimistic right now. I’ll just be glad when I can start taking all of my photos outside again.)

2015-03-07_2_Black-Cherry-TartYou may recall that my goal with this knit was to use up the last of this yarn, and I’m happy to report that I succeeded on that front, with a scant 5 ounces remaining:

2015-03-07_3_Black-Cherry-TartI’m saving this little ball in case either the cowl or the hat needs mending down the road.

With those two projects out of the way, I’m now free to focus on my favorite knitting recipient: ME. I very much need to finish my Courant sweater before I have no hope at all of wearing it this season. (Surely everyone has one such project, be it knitting or sewing). Of course, now that I can dedicate myself to it I’ve realized that what I really need are a few cardigans or other layering items to manage the wild 30° temperature swings that are coyly referred to as transitional weather. I continue to remind myself that I work best when I work on one thing at a time, and Courant won’t get knitted if I’m not knitting it. We’ll how long it takes before I cave and cast on for some other kind of accessory.

FO: Cranberry-Apple Bundt Cake

Gift knitting is interesting territory, a land that I’ve only recently ventured to and returned from. I’ve avoided it in the past, not because I don’t have knit-worthy recipients in my life, but because I understand that a hand-knit gift comes with a whole bundle of perfectly reasonable but daunting expectations. For instance, if you’re going to invest the time and effort into knitting someone a thing they’re going wear, then it’s not outrageous for the person to expect that thing to fit them well—you are, after all, creating fabric from scratch. But is there anything more challenging than fit? I’m not suggesting it’s a thing to be afraid of in and of itself—far from it!—but getting the particular fit that your loved one wants, often when they’re not present to check it, is a source of much nail-biting and hair-pulling. Is it too snug there, or too baggy there? Will it ride up/ride down/twist/do the tango?

And that’s just the first concern of every gift knit, to say nothing of the ones where the recipient isn’t involved in picking the yarn and/or the pattern. In those instances, you’re treated to an extra helping of uncertainty about scratchiness, or the precise shade of yarn, or the pattern placement.

Of course, none of that is to suggest that it isn’t worth it.

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Pattern: Based on Modell 108/1 A Mütze by Junghans-Wolle (free, German)
Yarn: Berroco® Vintage® Chunky, 6181 Black Cherry

This is my sister Loren’s cabled earflap hat, with pom poms. She requested a hat with these features while she was visiting for my birthday in November. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I set up a search in Ravelry for cabled earflap hats and then told her to pick out all of the ones she liked. She wasted no time, and an hour later she’d narrowed it down to three patterns, each of which had some but not all of the elements she was looking for. I assured her I could marry the designs into the ideal hat.

As you have no doubt noticed by now, I have an overwhelming tendency toward over-ambitious goals. I’d only knit one cabled item before this (two, if you count my first knitting project, a pair of fingerless mitts where each mitt ended up a different size and neither really fit), so I’m not exactly a cable-calculating wizard. The three patterns were all written for different weight yarns, and relied on different construction methods.

Aaaaand…the best pattern to use as a base was written in German. I don’t read German. But I sure tried! Google translate was useless, because the pattern used too many abbreviations. Between a German knitting abbreviation table and a German-to-English knitting glossary, I was able to piece together the basic instructions.

I needn’t have bothered, though, because after countless attempts I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t work the pattern bottom-up starting with the earflaps, because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to do the increases. After a bit of stewing, I decided to convert the pattern to top-down. Luckily, the cable design is charted, so I improvised the increases and then followed the chart as written. I did “move” the earflaps so that they’re centered on a little cable instead of a big one, but that was only to make shaping the earflaps less fiddly.

I used two rows of single crochet to finish the edges, because I knew it would offer the right balance of firmness and flexibility. Also, it’s so much faster and easier to maintain tension with than any knitted bind off, at least for me. The ties are three-stitch I-cord. The pom poms were made with a Clover pom pom maker. (I’ve tried cardboard donut pom poms before. Never again. Those Clover doo-dads are worth every cent, in my opinion.)

I’m proud to report that the finished hat arrived on my sister’s doorstep earlier this week, and she was quite happy with the result. The color is the exact wine-y shade she was looking for to match her black, brown, and grey winter coats/jackets/blazers. Despite my fears that it might be too loose, she reports that it fits comfortably without flattening her hair completely or letting in any cold winds.

I confess, hearing that she liked it was a huge relief. I wanted to knit this hat for her, but the minute I committed to it I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to deliver. I was afraid I’d finish, and it would be all wrong, and she’d end up with a cabled earflap hat with pom poms, but not the cabled earflap hat with pom poms she’d been hoping for. I don’t like to let people down, and I think that an almost-but-not-quite-right thing might just be worse than no thing at all. Although backing out on a promise definitely doesn’t feel good, either.

I might be the one crazy knitter out there that actually wants my family and friends to ask for hand-knitted things, because I want to be able to make the kinds of well-constructed, pretty things that people are proud to wear. I’m so pleased that the hat’s being worn and enjoyed, and that getting a package in the mail really brightened an otherwise stressful week for my sister.

As for the project name, I’m also the kind of crazy knitter that spends a ridiculous amount of brainpower coming up with silly names for my finished knits. Usually I make some kind of play on the original pattern name, but while I was knitting the crown I couldn’t get the image of a bundt cake out of my head.

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As for the cranberry-apple part, well, the red wasn’t purple-y enough for just cranberries, and if I were making cake with cranberries in it, I’d probably throw in apple to balance the tartness with a little sweetness. Now I’m craving dessert…

Tell me, do you knit gifts? Does it ever make you anxious? Do you give any of your projects silly names?