Apr 13, 2014

The Odd Ball

In some respects, I suppose I'm a bit of an odd ball.

The majority of knitters seem entranced with socks and shawls. I’m obsessed with afghans. Many knitters only make afghans during the cooler months. I knit them year round.  Most knitters love the challenge of testing their skills with the complex and intricate. I’m constantly seeking ways to take complicated things and make them simpler.

Which brings me to my current project. Yes, it’s another afghan. And yes, it features all my favorite qualities: Fast. Easy. Reversible. Strip construction. Completely from stash.

It’s still very much a work in progress, as you can see.

Knitting the stash into submission is an ongoing process, which explains why there's an entire category of posts dedicated to stashbusters. As work on that front progresses, however, other issues surface. The options grow more limited each time yarn leaves the stash, so finding desirable yarn in sufficient quantities and compatible colors, weights and fibers grows ever more challenging.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed one of my favorite afghan yarns is Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep: 80% cotton/20% wool). Because most of the full skeins have found their way into earlier projects, I’m now faced with a variety of odd balls and partial skeins that must give up their cozy homes in the stash cupboard and find new ones in knitted pieces.

The current afghan WIP has been designed around one specific odd ball: the teal. Trust me, the photo fails to capture this yarn's lovely color. It’s the perfect mix of blue and green with a touch of mallard.
It almost made it into one of the cable rib afghans, but it shifted the color balance too radically. It almost made it into the recent fluted rib afghan, too, but there it tended to get lost in the mix. So, I’ve been working to develop a project that incorporates this yarn and showcases its rich color.

Realistically, it's difficult to predict the ultimate effect of a final knitted piece no matter how much we swatch and test and color match and measure and frog and reswatch. Sometimes the results far exceed our expectations. Sometimes they don't.

Nonetheless, I’m hopeful. Perhaps at last this odd ball yarn has found more than just a new home, it's found the right home.

Be sure to check out the lovely crafts and crafters at Frontier Dreams, Small Things and Tami's Amis.

Apr 3, 2014

FO | Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan Too

Late Saturday evening, the last ends were woven on this version of the Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan. In the photo, you can see the ribbed side above the blanket fold line and the fluted side below it. 

Like the first Fluted Rib, this afghan incorporates my favorite attributes: Fast and easy. Strip construction. Reversible. Solely from stash yarn.

It's designed to function as a lap robe, because that's the size that gets near-constant use in this household. The yarn is a blend of wool and cotton, which means it's light but warm, a great weight for chilly spring mornings and evenings.

As you know, most of my afghans are designed to use stash yarn, but this one has been particularly valuable in that department. Not only is this two-toned slip stitch reversible, it’s taken eight different one-skein yarns (four of which I referred to as "the uglies") and blended them into a cohesive whole.

The result? A pile of yarn has been transformed into something both decorative and useful, which is a satisfying feeling.

Project: Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan Too
Pattern: My own
Yarn: Four Seasons (Classic Elite, discontinued)
Weight: Worsted
Yardage: 1000 yards +/- 
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dimensions: 30 x 40 ins +/- (unblocked)
Ravelry Notes: Here
Related Posts:  Here and here

This was such a fast and enjoyable knit, you may well see another in the future. Right now, I'm working on a new afghan concept, which means there's lots of swatching, measuring, calculating and frogging going on in the background.

There's no doubt about it, I'm truly addicted.

Mar 30, 2014

Lost and Wound

No, that’s not a typo in the title.

As you know, much of January was devoted to frogging several projects from last year that simply missed the mark. It was difficult to undo pieces that represented enormous amounts of time, planning, effort and yarn, but the results have been gratifying.

Some of the yarn reclaimed from that effort became this:

Some became this:

And some became other small things like this:

So what? Well, I’ve been at it again.

Last week, I spent time frogging test swatches and winding partially used skeins in an effort to restore some semblance of order to my knitting thought processes and to get a better grasp of potential gems lurking in the stash.

All that frogging and winding produced about 1500 yards of Cotton Fleece:

I can't predict what you see when you look at this photo. 

What do I see? Lots of unrecognized potential that was hidden in swatches and test knits and half-used skeins. I see the beginnings of another afghan, along with new swatches and test knits yet to be conceived.

What was lost has been found. What was lost has been wound.

To see what other knitters and crafters are doing, visit Frontier Dreams, Small Things and Tami's Amis.

Mar 23, 2014

Rumor Has It

Rumor has it spring has sprung. If this is true where you live, congratulations. (I freely admit to feeling a slight twinge of envy.)

In this corner of the world, the persistent blanket of snow has disappeared (for now) and we’ve experienced a few tiny glimmers that hint at the tantalizing possibility spring might one day arrive … eventually. While these subtle signs are welcome, I'm not holding my breath. It will be mid-May before the official frost date indicates the chance of a hard freeze has passed in this area.

Meanwhile, I've been spending lots of long days in the office cranking to meet deadlines. My office is on the chilly side, so I rely on layers of knits to keep me warm. Today, for example, I'm wearing a sturdy turtleneck, a red felted vest and an ancient Ralph Lauren lambswool cardigan. 

Regular readers know I wear fingerless mitts all day almost every day because my hands tend to get cold. Today, I’m wearing a pair of Last-Minute Mitts. If I run into a task where the mitts are in the way, I can just pop my thumb out of the thumbhole, push the mitts down to my wrists and wear them like cufflets.

Lap-sized afghans have been my constant companions this winter. Today, I’m using the double-layered Swafghan and am relishing every scrap of warmth it has to offer. (Did I mention my office tends to be cold?)

Even the beverages have their own handknit accessories. I started the day with hot coffee as shown, but I'll soon switch to hot tea. When I'm working against deadlines, it takes a delicate balance of caffeine to keep the mental engine fired up but not overly revved.

In spite of the fact that it's freezing outside, cold inside and local weather forecasters are predicting more snow this week, rumor has it spring has sprung.

My mother always told me not to listen to rumors. Clearly she was right.

To see many exquisite crafters and their lovely work, be sure to visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things and Tami's Amis.

Mar 21, 2014

Interim Rewards

There are many reasons why strip construction is my go-to strategy for afghans. The obvious reasons are clear: It turns a large project into one that's compact, portable, manageable and adaptable.

Strip construction has other advantages as well, like the fact that it's packed with payoffs from beginning to end. The initial payoff occurs when the you cast on the first strip and soon after you get another when that strip is completed.

Multiple starts. Multiple finishes. Multiple rewards.

Strip construction saved my patootie when it became obvious the original purple combination was going to be troublesome. Yes, I had to reknit an entire strip, but because each strip is an independent component, the rest of the work remained untouched and intact. If this afghan had been constructed in a traditional fashion, I would have had to rip and reknit the entire thing, because the purple band was the first one I tackled. (The photo above shows the fluted front and the one below shows the ribbed back. The colors are off kilter, but you get the gist.)

This incremental approach works well for me. Dividing a large and potentially overwhelming project into smaller components makes it easy to stay motivated. I can cheerfully plug away at the strip I'm working on, because when it's finished, I get to cast on for the next one. This feeds my desire to begin something new, helps keep startitis under control, and the steady flow of little starts and finishes makes forward progress look and feel more tangible.

Now that the purple strip has been reknit, this version of the reversible Fluted Rib afghan is well on its way to completion. Bound off and lightly steamed to ease the stitch, the strips are ready to assemble.

In any project, the assembly stage can be daunting. To maintain momentum, I'm breaking it into small steps. This makes it more manageable and helps me fit a large task into the small, sporadic slices of time left over at the end of my overstuffed work days.

I'm eager for this afghan come together, both to see the finished result and because plans for another are already on the drawing board. For just one moment, however, I'm pausing to relish the visible signs of progress and interim rewards.

Mar 16, 2014

Trouble with a Capital T

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say. Trouble in River City …
Oh, yes, we got lots and lots of trouble … Trouble with a capital T.  

The Music Man

I can’t get those lyrics out of my mind. Here’s why.

The photo below shows the four strips destined for my latest version of the reversible Fluted Rib afghan. All the strips are completed and ready to bind off. So far, so good, right?

Take a closer look. The purple strip hanging off the needle incorporates two solid shades of purple, one deep and one mid-range. While there’s more contrast than the photo indicates, the colors blend together for a subtle tweedy effect. 

The result is attractive and it could be a good thing, except for one small, naggling problem. The other strips feature a lighter variegated yarn as a counterpoint to the solid one. In the purple, the cumulative effect of two solids at the darker end of the color spectrum tilts the visual balance.

Don’t get me wrong. The purple strip could (and would) work if other options weren't available. For better or worse, however, I have one more variegated ugly skein skulking in the stash.

The variegated skein was actually part of the original color mix, but in isolation, it made a rather lovely purple look muted and dull. Now that the other strips are completed, the two-toned effect reads differently and seems more appealing.

As you may recall, much of January was devoted to frogging several large, near-final WIPs that missed the mark. Perhaps that's why I'm so very, very tempted to just live with the dark purple strip and push onward. 

Nope. That course of action simply spells trouble with a capital T ... and lots of future frogging with a capital F. So, instead of starting to assemble the afghan, my goals have shifted: Frog the deep purple strip. Recake the yarn. Reknit the strip.

Yes indeed, there's a reason this blog is titled Knitting | Work in Progress.

Take time to check out the lovely work at Frontier DreamsSmall Things and Tami's Amis.

Mar 9, 2014

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Today is the first day of Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the US, the day when we set our clocks an hour ahead and spring forward. In autumn, of course, we reverse the process and fall back by setting our clocks back an hour.

This year, the arrival of DST made me think of knitting. Naturally.

As you know, my current work in progress is another fast, easy, reversible afghan. This weekend, I finished the second strip and cast on for the third. As a slow knitter, it’s gratifying to spring forward so quickly (comparatively speaking) and see measurable progress in such a short period. Here’s the basic timeline so far: 

Strip 1 – Cast on March 1. Finished March 3.

Strip 2 – Cast on March 3. Finished March 7.

Strip 3 – Cast on March 8. Hope to finish March 10.

Keep in mind, my work schedule is nutty right now, so I’m logging very long hours seven days a week. This means significantly less knitting time.

Nonetheless, I finished the first Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan in precisely three weeks (a remarkable feat for me) and would very much like to accomplish the same with this one for several reasons: I’m eager to see how the new colors play together when all the pieces are done. Medium weight, cotton-wool afghans get near constant use year round in this household, so it will be lovely to have another in the rotation. This stitch is fast, easy, versatile and pretty, so as soon as I finish this piece, I hope to experiment with it in new yarns and patterns.

So, time constraints aside, I'm extremely motivated to work on this project in every spare moment I can scavenge.

While the pieces come together, I’ve been periodically stopping to determine whether this version would look best bound and edged in a dark or light tone. Right now I’m favoring black, so I’ve set aside sufficient yarn for that purpose. Since I change my mind every other day, it seemed smart to have a fall back position, so I’ve also set aside sufficient ivory yarn. Just in case.

Like so many endeavors in knitting (and life), this project can be summed up in a few words: Spring forward. Fall back.

Mar 5, 2014

WIP | The Good, the Bad, the Uglies

As you know, I've been diligently knitting from stash. In fact, everything I made last year was straight from stash and so far the same is true this year.

Buried in the stash are a number of yarns I refer to as the "uglies." Why? They look fine in the hank. They look equally fine when they're caked. But no matter what I've tried to knit with them, they looked bad. Very, very bad. The colors were splotchy and the overall effect was unappealing.

Until now.

The two-toned yarn is one of the uglies, a blend of red and ivory. These are two shades I like very much, but in the past the final knitted effect was unappealing. After much experimentation, I finally paired it with the bright, rich fuchsia, and so far it appears to be working. The fuchsia is strong enough to hold its own, and in this stitch, it's lending some rosy tones to the red-ivory yarn.

It will take time to see how this plays out in its entirety, but so far, it appears the latest afghan pattern, the Reversible Fluted Rib, may be the ideal way to transform this cluster of uglies into something quite respectable. The first version incorporated one official ugly skein, the latest version will use at least three. I hope.

And that's good. Very, very good.

It's Wednesday once again, so visit Frontier DreamsSmall Things and Tami's Amis to see many lovely crafters at work.

Feb 27, 2014

FO | Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan

What a boring name for a rather charming little afghan. I'll try to come up with something more creative, but for now Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan will have to suffice.

This afghan has the features I crave most: It was a fast and easy knit. (I finished this in exactly 3 weeks from the day the first strip was cast on to the day the last end was woven.) It relies on strip construction, my favorite approach to afghans. It was made with yarn solely from stash.

The stitch is reversible. The front and back textures are completely different, which I like. Not only does the two-tone stitch add interest, it helped me integrate eight different colors into a pleasing whole and turn a pile of one-skein yarns into something useful and pretty. Here it is, not yet blocked:

This little afghan has some additional features I find equally appealing.

The strip strategy makes it highly portable, and because the strips are narrow, it's easy to pick up and work a couple rows in spare moments. Overall, strip construction means you can knit afghans year round without the warmth and weight of a blanket in your lap during the peak of summer heat and humidity. Plus, strips are more manageable and put less stress on your wrists and hands.

Joining is also fast and easy because of the modified three-needle bind off, and it provides stability that helps control the natural tendency of any knitted afghan to stretch (and keep on stretching) with use. The edging on the end pieces serves the same purpose and adds a nice finishing touch.

Project: Reversible Fluted Rib Afghan
Pattern: My own
Yarn: Four Seasons (Classic Elite, discontinued)
Weight: Worsted
Yardage: 1000 yards +/- 
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dimensions: 30 x 40 ins +/- (unblocked)
Ravelry Notes: Here
Related Posts:  Herehere and here

It's deliberately compact, because in this household, smaller afghans tend to get near-constant use. Both the stitch pattern and size would work well as a lap robe or baby blanket, but it would be extraordinarily easy to make it wider, longer or both.

This concept is a keeper. It came together quickly (a powerful lure for a slow knitter like me), and I'm delighted with the finished result.

I predict you'll be seeing more of these. In fact, I've scoured the stash and selected eight more singleton skeins. Why? Because I hope to cast on for another reversible fluted rib afghan this weekend. (Yes, clearly I'm addicted.)