Friday, March 26, 2010

Boats, Trains, and Automobiles

I contemplated making a toy car mat for my nephew this Christmas, and when no satisfactory pattern was found, I turned to the equally desirable volcano mat (documented here).

In January, a co-worker showed me the perfect knit pattern for such a delightful toy mat, newly released by Knit Picks. It’s a hefty size (four feet by four feet), but as cute as can be. To temper my excitement, though, it was observed that the knitting consisted of an awful lot of stockinette (let’s not focus too long on the area of sixteen feet, or I might grow faint). However, I was not dissuaded long-term. I like some moderately straightforward knitting now and again.

However, the cuteness factor of the toy mat was trumped when I learned there were vehicles that accompanied this pattern, and the kit was duly purchased and immediately cast on.

Let me introduce you to the newest members of my toy knitting.

Enter: Train.



Pickup Truck.

My only complaint is that the wheels called for on the vehicles are i-cord alone. No extra support, no padded wheels, just black i-cord that end up looking like flat tires since they’re sewn half-on and half-off the vehicle. I left them off the car and truck. I’m thinking children’s imaginations won’t mind concocting their own wheels, unless I come up with a more satisfactory solution.

Also, I should add the disclaimer that I didn’t take a close look at gauge – while I think I was pretty close if not right on, I was aiming for the proper density of knitted fabric to hide the stuffing. A couple of the projects had me running awfully close to empty when it came to yardage. My saving grace was that I had some leftover yarn in the same colors after finishing the collaborative Kristine blanket. If you aren’t so fortunate and are considering such a kit, I recommend an extra skein of red and yellow unless you’re very spot-on with gauge.

I’m afraid that I grew pretty attached to these items during the process. Unless I make some identical ones for my nephew, I have to confess these are now at home in my toy chest, or as I like to call it, “Aunt Faith sure has the best toys!”

Hey, if bribing is what it takes to get my family to visit me, so be it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kristine's Blanket: A Collaboration

Let’s set the scene. A couple years back, about a dozen friends met on a weekly basis to knit, share life, and take in Cambodian Thai as often as we could justify. Since then, several of those individuals have moved on: four to schools or jobs out East, one to a job in Chicago, a couple are not too far away from here but not as close as to allow mid-week knitting, and yet another to Tennessee.

The newly-relocated Tennessee girl, Kristine, happened to share that she was pregnant this fall. It so happened that this summer I was suggesting to one of the remaining knitters that were one of our own to become pregnant, it would be nice to contribute a collaborative project; I even had a possibility in mind. After all, knitters often give but don’t often receive handknits, and especially since we’re all over the States, a gesture like this would be a special memory for the recipient – each square knit by a dear friend that she used to spend time with on a regular basis when she lived here, a special gift that she could share with her child. Thus, while we’re away, this blanket would hold a piece of us near.

Kristine, falling into my plans by conveniently getting pregnant, was the perfect recipient.

I sent out a mass email with the plan. We’d all lay claim to specific squares and colors for the Texture Baby Blanket (from Susan B. Anderson's book Itty Bitty Nursery), purchasing the same brand of yarn so there would be cohesiveness (here I am promoting KnitPicks again, but they offer great affordable yarn and their cotton is delicious).

We figured we had plenty of time to knit 2-3 squares before the March due date. Then we learned our dear friend was going to be in Chicago for a baby shower in December, and that spurred some sudden knitting and assembling to try to finish in time.

There’s always a gamble when eleven different individuals work together to try to make a cohesive project. Sure, we all used the same yarn brand, but our color tastes varied, and I wondered how it would turn out with such a mixture. Fortunately, we knew the recipient liked bold colors, so we thought that out of all of us, she would be most welcoming of a motley blanket.

As blocks were being returned, I admit there was some anxiety on my part. In such a project, if one person is making all 25 blocks, there can be some inattention when it comes to gauge. Use the same needle size and yarn, and the squares should be the same. However, when you have eleven knitters all aiming, more or less, for identical squares in the end, it’s imperative that the gauge be taken to account. However, as they were returned, not all were six inches square. Some were just shy, some were spot on, and some were about seven inches, or more of a rectangular shape. I was beginning to think we would be gifting 25 cotton washcloths to Kristine.

Fortunately, this was not going to be my problem to solve. Carly had offered to crochet all the squares together. She amazed me with her speed – I think it took under 48 hours to make an actual blanket out of 24 squares (one hadn’t yet been returned). The last block was seamed in on the way to the shower in the car.

Of course, time got the best of us, and at the shower, our blanket still had two squares without embellishments, no border, and more dangling ends than any knitter wants to face while sober. We showed her the project, let her caress and enjoy it for a time, and then whisked it away for finishing at the end of the night. She was gracious in response to our gift reclaiming. Over Christmas, I added the border and wove in ends (there are some bonuses to long car trips when I’m captive inside a moving vehicle). Then over the next couple months the final two squares were embellished, and we were able to mail it to her before her baby’s arrival (Baby Boy is supposed to emerge any day now, so getting it to Kristine before he came was enough for us).

She just received it a couple weeks ago, so I thought I’d share some photos of the completed project. You can see the edges don’t quite lay flat – I think this is where the differences in gauge is most obvious, but I think it turned out pretty well, all things considered.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Tale of a Chicken (aka: Nancy Challenge #1)

Once upon a time, there was a girl who noticed a distressing absence of chickens in her life. Not one to sit around and witness this tragedy continue longer than necessary, she decided to bring one to existence.

After a small dose of KnitPicks cotton, some fiberfill, and a fair amount of seaming together, Chicken entered the scene.

At first, this girl didn’t know what to make of him. She followed the (sparse) directions thoroughly, but his head was a little floppy, and that neck connection wasn’t the most attractive; some might speculate that he lacked proper support in that department. However, after two days had passed, she learned this allowed him to turn his head rakishly, so she decided it really did add to his personality.

With the satisfactory closure of this mission, her life is more complete.

This also completes her first Nancy Challenge (there are two other projects in various degrees of doneness and satisfaction that are currently in a holding pattern, plus Lent this year is composed of charity knitting, so we’ll see what’s next on the docket re: Nancy books).