Saving Christmas

Published on Wednesday December 12th, 2012

I had this plan about Christmas crafting this year. I was pretty pleased with it. The plan was rather revolutionary, really: Take it easy. Admit you have a not-quite-six-month-old and a not-quite-two-and-a-half-year-old, one of whom has had a tummy bug for the past ten days, and also a job. No full-size sweaters. (Well, except for the Annual Christmas Exchange Sweater, which is the Rocky Coast Cardigan this year… but that’s on US10.5 needles, so it hardly counts.) No fine-gauge colorwork jumpers with intricate dressmaker’s details. A couple of pairs of trousers sewn for the kids were my main goal. (Progress: about 35%. I’d make more headway if the sewing machine and the baby didn’t sleep in the same room.) Finish the sleeve of Mum’s Eala Bhan and maybe even start the second one. (Progress: negatory. I am chagrined to say that I ripped out a perfectly good sleeve cap, thinking I’d made an error I hadn’t. I swear I have learned this lesson before: don’t rip anything after 9pm! If it still looks wrong in the morning, rip it then.) Also, there’s a cowl that got within a few inches of completion before last Christmas. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of evenings to finish that… if I can find it. Is it possible that my house has eaten more than half a meter of fluffy dense wool fabric?  So yes, I’m feeling extremely laid back about the crafting this year.

Then a lovely knitter named Janet emailed me. She, being more ambitious, is trying to knit a pair of opera gloves I designed about five years ago. They’re supposed to be a Christmas gift. She is a lifelong knitter who knows her way around the craft blindfolded, but the gloves are black wool and the stitches are very tiny and the sadistic designer concocted this unnecessarily difficult stitch motif (my words; Janet is far too genteel to say any such thing, however true) and then asked her to keep the pattern correct between paired decreases, and she simply cannot see what she is knitting well enough to comply. I never even thought of that difficulty, callow twenty-something that I was when I dreamed these monsters up. Instead of doing what many of us would do, which is to curse said designer and said black wool and said 2mm needles and chuck the whole thing in favor of some cozy and quick-knitting worsted mitts, Janet politely called for aid. And aid she shall have, by gum.

I happen to have cast on a glove in this pattern myself after finishing the samples. It has languished in the wool cabinet for at least four years. Long ago I pirated its needles for something more pressing. But unlike that !@#$ing cowl, the glove presented itself immediately. It was worked to within half a round of the very point I needed to examine. It docilely clambered back onto the 2mm dpns. I set out to make Janet a chart. I have now made Janet SIX charts, because I keep screwing up some little element here or there. I love working from charts and can’t really comprehend why some knitters flee them in terror, but they are surprisingly tough little boogers to make when they involve changing stitch counts and moving stitches. I think I have wrestled that decrease chart to the ground and tied its legs together at last. But there is a bigger and badder chart I need to make to show what happens on the back of the hand. I’m trying not to bog down in self-flagellation as I work back through my original notes and find all the things I should have done better in writing this pattern. Not to mention the things I now want to change in the design itself. It struck me somewhere between Chart Iterations 4 and 5 that what this motif actually wanted to be was colorwork, not texture. This made me rather excited, imagining the new and superior gloves I might knit in two colors. They will be glorious! Might I knit them with something rather fluffy to give them a beautiful halo? Oooh, there’s angora blend in some promising colors in the stash… maybe an ice blue with a hot red? Or that cinnamon brown? Will I opt for intarsia at the end or add some kind of all-over design on the palms? But no, I must focus! Janet needs her charts and I don’t even know how fast she knits!

So family, if you don’t get anything handmade this season, it isn’t because I’ve stopped loving you. It’s because I had Wrongs to Right. I am saving another knitter’s Christmas program. I am rising to a technical challenge and using a part of my brain that’s gotten really soft. I am calling a do-over on work I’m not happy with. It feels good. And if one of you gets a pair of long gloves, you’d better thank Janet.


Published on Thursday March 5th, 2009

The faintest gleam of sunshine while I was taking my lunch break yielded this:

There’s been enough interest in this “design” from folks who’ve seen me wearing my new armwarmers around that I’ll be writing up the pattern. This should be a totally foolproof process as long as I can manage the color chart in an attractive computery way, so I hope to do it over the weekend. In case you want to go stash diving in anticipation (and this is a truly stash-divey project), these are knit with sport-weight or DK alpaca. I used Frog Tree’s (warning: before blocking this stuff was shaming me as a knitter–my stitches were cattywampus and totally ahoo at the needle joins, thanks to the 2-ply construction and loose gauge. Blocking solved everything, so don’t give up in despair as I would have if this hadn’t been such a spontaneous project.) and La Droguerie’s. I’ve got loads of both skeins leftover, so these long gloves don’t take much. Rowan Felted Tweed would make a delicious substitute; I’ll definitely be making myself a pair in some leftovers I’ve got on hand.

Also, the Minaret Opera Gloves I started in Malabrigo Sock Cordovan (be still my heart and look out my husband — I could totally elope with this yarn):

Delicious rich brownness not captured here… the sun had already gone away again.

At last…

Published on Tuesday September 23rd, 2008

… I can show you one of my favorite designs from last spring: opera gloves, in a pattern I called Minaret for the graceful shape of the traveling stitches on the back of the hand. They don’t show up on the Knit/Purl website yet, but the pattern is available if you call the store (or stop by, if you’re in Portland). The official Shibui photo you’ll see if you follow the link shows the stitch pattern very nicely, but I like these pictures Mr. G took when I wore them to a gala we attended in May.*

Here you can see the pretty “mouse teeth” (as it’s called in German) picot edge. These take two skeins of Shibui Sock in Ink (or whatever color complements your fancy opera duds).

While you’re checking out the new Shibui offerings, make sure you take a gander at Sara Morris’s Columbia Cabled Pullover. My friend Patrick is modeling it, but I put it on at the shoot and wanted to steal the sample, it looked and felt so good.

*Someone’s going to ask about the necklace. It’s Victorian costume jewelry – I’m told it would have been attached to the neck of a gown rather than worn separately – and it’s been in the family so long nobody knows whom it belonged to originally. I inherited it from Granny, but I never saw her wear it. It was probably her grandmother’s.