Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quick Hat and Mitts (Doodads)

KD knit a cute little brimmed cap for herself this fall and has been wearing it all winter. Her grandmother saw it, fell in love, and most importantly, tried it on. The fit was perfect.

Fast forward until after the holidays, when I am back on my feet after a bout with bronchitis, and looking for something to re-introduce my hands to knitting that doesn't involve lace weight yarn or intricate patterns. That eliminated all of my current WIPs, and KD mentioned the hat-grandmother situation.

Not one to tempt the gods of gauge, I demanded to know the pattern and yarn that KD had used in her hat, only to discover that the yarn had been Discontinued. Taking a deep breath, I plunged into the previously unexplored world of stash trade on Ravelry. Sure enough, several people had the yarn, and in delightful colorways. I picked a color, and since I only needed a single skein, chose someone with just a single skein to sell.

The transaction concluded smoothly, the yarn arrived, and yesterday, I cast on a hat.

This morning, I finished it. Is there any sweeter instant gratification than a bulky weight, single skein hat?

Pattern: Capitan Hat
Needles: Size 10, size 8
Mods: I used the size 8 needles for the inside of the brim, starting with the purl (fold) row, to make the fold lie along the edge the way I wanted. And like KD, I left off the button band trim.

That left just enough leftover yarn for a pair of fingerless mitts. After staring at several patterns, I closed my laptop, cut the leftover yardage in half, and cast on 32 stitches. This gave me a chance to try out Jeny's Stretchy Slip Knot Cast On, which KD had demonstrated for me, but which I still suspected might be a scam. Turns out, I like it a lot. I worked K1, P1 ribbing until it reached from my finger knuckles to the base of my thumb, tried out Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off over the next six stitches, then put them back on the next row, making nothing but a buttonhole thumb. In the interest of making them as long as possible, I finished with EZ's sewn bind off. I love Jeny's, but it uses more yarn. Then I made a matching mitt from the other half of the yardage, took pictures, and mailed them off. A successful doodad.

Doodad, you say? Doodads, as everyone knows (after reading this), are things you make out of leftover yarn (way less than a complete skein) that you just can't bring yourself to throw away. Once it's been made up into something, I can throw away the object if it was a total failure with much less angst than throwing away unused yarn.

For instance, I made these Jaywalkers for myself recently (my beloved brown ones bit the dust, and I couldn't resist the colorway of this yarn). They turned out slightly too small, as I was overcompensating for the stretchy yarn, so they are KD's now. I made the leftovers into little socks for my niece, but toddler sizing is never going to be my strong suit, and she couldn't even get them on, despite all the stretch. I tossed them without a pang.

Pattern: Grumperina's Jaywalkers
Yarn: Paton's Stretch Socks in Spumoni Stripes

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blame it on your grandmother

I feel the need to explain my actions.

When I was a child, my mother often made time to play the piano by squeezing it into the time just after we were sent up to bed. When I became a parent, I followed her example, quickly realizing that it was an excellent choice of time slot - it calmed everyone down, including a frazzled mother. I couldn't play for too long, since for many years we lived in places with noise restrictions in the evening, but many days that was enough. When it wasn't, I found time to play a little bit during the day - usually with someone small perched up beside me on the bench, "helping."

I don't know if my mother, in turn, learned this habit from her mother. I do know that my grandmother played the piano until late in life, and was the first to tell me that if I wanted to keep playing as I got older, and began to deal with the family inheritance of osteoarthritis, I would have to make it a point to play every day. This fall, after a lapse of several months, I sat down to brush up on Christmas music and discovered that the Time Had Come for making piano playing a daily ritual.

My grandmother also played duets with me, and was always willing to listen to whatever I was learning. By 1973 though, I was a teenager, and beginning that amazing distancing process that teens go through on the way to becoming independent adults - my grandmother and I didn't always see eye to eye any more. At the end of that year, the movie "The Sting" was released, with Marvin Hamlisch's wonderful re-workings of some of Scott Joplin's music for the soundtrack. Suddenly, ragtime was popular again. With what I remember as a little hesitancy, my grandmother offered me some ragtime music that she had played when it was first popular. To her surprise, I greeted this as the coolest of the cool. Ragtime was in, and I had songs none of my friends had heard.

I can still play the piano because of my grandmother. I play ragtime to this day, because of my grandmother. It puts my daughter to sleep, because of her grandmother. I love that.