Self-soothing with color

I’ve made an afghan!

Okay, this is an accomplishment, and I’m proud of it, but I have successfully made afghans in the past. This latest afghan has marked a change of focus for me, though. In recent years, I’ve been putting my energies into one- and two-skein projects, mainly shawlettes and shawls. I got to try a lot of different yarns in a comparatively short amount of time, plus, instant gratification has its appeal. I still have tubs (multiple) filled with yarns that will make lovely accessories, but as it turns out, a pandemic is a great time for Very Large Projects.

The Hue Shift Afghan was first published in 2012, and I picked up a kit for it in 2014. I promptly put it in my stash and let it age, as one does. It never seemed like the right time to commit to making it until last year. My best guess as to why it finally seemed like the right time to start it is what I named in the title of this post: I like color, I especially like rainbow sequences of colors, and so I tried countering the stress of modern life with the largest rainbow project I had on hand. I don’t know as knitting this afghan made life any less stressful, but creating a project this big did leave me feeling as if I was accomplishing something. One big something, that is, rather than several small ones: this is why my project count for 2021 was comparatively low.

I confess to being persnickety about the colors. I learned about the spectrum first from science and then art classes, and the colors in the kit don’t quite match what I learned. Why was pink between purple and red? Why was there a yellow-green and two shades of blue-green, but no “true” green? And this is why there’s a Roman numeral in the project name. I wasn’t totally satisfied with the colors in the kit, but I was curious enough to knit it anyway. However, it motivated me to see if I could pick colors more to my liking, and so I got yarn to make a second bright afghan at some point.

The bright colorway isn’t the only one included in the pattern. There are also a soft (pastel) colorway, a decor colorway (light blue, light green, and neutrals), and a jewel colorway (deep, rich reds, blues, and greens). Since I also had opinions about the pattern’s pastel colorway, I picked out my own colors for it as well, and I couldn’t resist: I started it a few months after I started this bright one.


Hue Shift Afghan I
Pattern: Hue Shift Afghan
Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Sport
Colorways: Black, Fairy Tale, Rouge, Red, Orange, Caution, Canary, Alfalfa, Tranquil, Marina, Celestial
Needle: 3 (3.25 mm)

2021 by the numbers

These will be comparatively small numbers this year. Due to spending most of the year on two large projects that carried over into 2022, I only finished four projects in 2021. This ties with 2017, the year I dubbed the Year of Barely Knitting, but 2021 is more the Year of Knitting Much, Finishing Little.

So here’s my 2021 finished output: 2 cowls, a shawl, and 5 candle rings, the last of which I’m bunching together into one project and calling it “decorations” as its type:

Google says this color is “red berry.” I can’t think of any red berries this color, but the name adds another level to the term “pie chart.” Speaking of color…

Each candle ring was small, but as each was a different color, they do make this chart jump out. No pink this year, alas (I did start a pink shawlette, but it fell into UFO-dom as I focused on afghans.)

Next up: the crafts involved:

After years of effort, I finally achieved craft parity: as many crochet projects as knitting projects!

As for the weights of yarn (and embroidery floss) in my projects:

Four projects, four different weights of yarn. It looks much more varied than my actual experience of it was.

I’m hoping for a little more quantity in 2022. I’ve finished one of the afghans that preoccupied me in 2021 and am in the final stretch of the other one. Although I’m still in the mood to make afghans, so 2022 may also be a year of a few, large projects.

The Warlock Cowl, or better late than never

Oops. I finished this cowl last year, took a photo of it, and then never got around to blogging about it, or even finishing off the record-keeping in Ravelry. Hey, world: I finished something else in 2021!

The pattern is the beloved Zuzu’s Petals, which I’ve used before and may very well use again. The yarn is from the late, lamented Twisted Fiber Art. (I suppose every project I make with their yarn from now on will have a bittersweet feel to it—sob!). I’d made a shawlette in the Warlock (purple/gray gradient) colorway in 2018, but it hadn’t quite worked out as I had hoped, so I bought a cake of the oh-so-snuggly Catnip to try again. Having made this pattern with this yarn before, I had lots more confidence that this was going to work out.

This is a smidgen different than my other Zuzu’s Petals cowls. I had slightly more yarn than the pattern called for, and I wanted to use as much of it as possible. After two less-than-satisfactory attempts, I did another pattern repeat—roughly rows 1-8, adjusting for the center increase. I then worked rows 33-38, adjusting for the pattern now being shifted half a unit horizontally. There wasn’t enough yarn to do rows 39-40, so I skipped to rows 41-42 and finished with an Icelandic bind off for elasticity.

My confidence was justified: this cowl definitely worked out well. 😊


Warlock Cowl
Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Catnip Evolution
Colorway: Warlock
Needle: 7 (4.5 mm)

Five not-golden rings

I’ve been knitting assiduously this year, but I haven’t been finishing a lot of projects, and I tend to blog only when I have a completed item to show off. So, hey, just letting you know that I finished something for the first time in months.

Last year, I learned about the Worldwide Annual Solstice Advent Sun Wheel Celebration. I signed up for updates and watched it go by via other people’s Facebook posts, and it looked meaningful and interesting, but I had no experience with observing Advent and anyway, it was 2020 (’nuff said). This year, with a bit more time to prepare, I decided to try it.

Bare minimum, I needed five candles. Any five would’ve done—I saw all sorts of beautiful variations in other people’s photos—but I used flameless tapers. (I’m a bit of a pyrophobe, plus I’ve never been quite sure how candles fit into the nonsmoking terms in my lease.) One limitation of flameless candles, though, is that they don’t come in as many colors as real ones do. Not that there’s anything wrong with snow-white candles, but having gotten them set up, I realized I wanted more. In a perfect world, I’d have flameless candles in the colors associated with the four elements and Spirit. In the real world, I was going to have to improvise.

My first idea would’ve been easy if it’d worked: get ribbons in the five colors and tie them around the candles. But my local Michaels was having the same supply chain issues as every other store and the ribbons aisle looked distinctly picked-over. Wandering the store, trying to think of an alternative, I found embroidery floss. Which, yes, I could also have tied around the candles. But embroidery floss looks a lot more like yarn than ribbon does, and while searching for the “perfect” shade of each color, I thought I might try crocheting it instead.

And lo, I have candle rings.

To make these, I crocheted strips of single crochet stitches that were 5 stitches wide and 24 rows long. You can alter the width to whatever you find attractive. The strip should be long enough that when joined into a ring, it’s big enough that you can slip it over the end of the candle, but tight enough that it’ll stay where you want it without dropping to the bottom of the candle. I wouldn’t recommend these rings for real candles because it’d be easy to forget about them and cotton is flammable.


Candle Rings for Flameless Candles
Pattern: see above
Yarn: DMC Six-Strand Embroidery Floss
Colors: 444 (Dark Lemon), 321 (Red), 796 (Dark Royal Blue), 909 (Very Dark Emerald Green), 3837 (Ultra Dark Lavender)
Hook: B (2.25 mm)

Monokrom Delphinia

Apparently I don’t knit just for knitting’s sake. I also knit to try out ideas, and if I happen to have several ideas involving the same pattern, I may end up doing the pattern several times. Which is how I’ve ended up with my 2½th (2nd and a half?) Delphinia.

I knitted my first Delphinia in 2019. For this one, I mainly did the pattern as written, although I had enough yarn to do an extra pattern repeat. I liked it, for all the reasons I’ve already listed in that post, so when I had the idea to cross it with Reyna, a shawlette I’d knitted the year before, I followed the impulse and ended up with Reyphinia. And all was well and good, and the only lingering thought I had was to maybe try Reyphinia again sometime, but with more yarn so that I’d get more variation in the band widths. I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but here’s my latest variant of Delphinia. For this, I used a single yarn, Urth Monokrom Fingering, although it has enough color variation to make it look like I might have used more than one colorway.

I’d bought the Monokrom Fingering with no specific project in mind, just the conviction that if I left the yarn store without it, it would’ve disappeared by the time I made another visit. (This mindset is responsible for the existence of ⅔ of my stash.) I’d even wound it in preparation for another project altogether, but I hadn’t realized its color variation would be wide stripes when knitted, and that wouldn’t have worked with that pattern. Delphinia, on the other hand, was interesting texture-wise, but not so intricate that tonal stripes would obliterate the texture. Plus, up to a point, I could just repeat the pattern until I ran out of yarn, like the first time I’d knitted it. Yarn and pattern paired, I went boldly forth and from early September to early November 2020, knitted myself another Delphinia.

At about 90% completion, I frogged it.

Denial can be a real issue with, well, anything you’ve invested time and energy into. I was aware early on that Delphinia as written wasn’t working as well with the Monokrom Fingering as I’d hoped. Somehow I kept convincing myself that the problem would work itself out somehow, or it didn’t really matter that much, or that somehow this was going to stop bothering me by the end of the project, even though I was brooding over it practically every time I picked the shawl up to knit on it.

As written, Delphinia is striped both in texture and color: garter stitch bands in one color alternating with eyelet mesh bands in a second color. Except that the color and texture don’t change at quite the same time. Each eyelet mesh band begins and ends with a ridge of garter stitch. Since these ridges are in the same color as the eyelet mesh, you see them as part of the eyelet mesh bands instead of the garter stitch bands. The two kinds of bands look to be the same width after blocking. But this trick doesn’t work if you’ve knitted the entire shawl in one color. In the Monokrom Fingering, the garter stitch bands “gained” the 2 ridges from the eyelet mesh bands, and so they looked wider than the eyelet mesh bands, which in turn looked correspondingly thinner. Yes, it was only a problem in the sense that I didn’t like the look; it wasn’t that the shawl didn’t hold together or anything truly wrong. But at the 90% point, I finally admitted that this was going to annoy the heck out of me. So I ripped back to the very first stitch (!), recalculated the band widths, and began again. The original pattern had had 7 ridges of garter stitch in Color A and 2 garter ridges and 5 eyelet mesh “rows” (each made of two actual rows) in Color B. For one color of yarn, I decided it worked better with 7 garter ridges total alternating with 5 eyelet mesh “rows.”

It took me a little longer this time—I was starting to get distracted by other projects—but I finished the Monokrom Delphinia in January. I didn’t have enough yarn to work the I-cord bind off that the pattern originally called for, but the elastic bind off I used instead looks fine, and anyway, since the bind off isn’t in a contrasting color, it’s not as noticeable in the first place.

And hey, I might come up with another variant someday! It’s wonderful to find a flexible pattern.


Delphinia Shawl
Pattern: Delphinia Shawl
Yarn: Urth Monokrom Fingering
Colorway: 3056
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm)

Cowl comfort crochet

I am getting into a groove (rut?) with cowls made from super-bulky yarn that hug my neck and shoulders. I’ve made a few versions of The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl (indigo! blue-green! pink!), and I may make some more in the future. But in making them, I learned that Malabrigo Rasta and Malabrigo Caracol don’t behave identically when knitted, even though they look a lot alike, and that the knitted Caracol cowl I’d made was limper than I liked. Uh-oh.

I wanted to use Caracol again, but it presented me with a couple of challenges. Avoiding a limp final product was my primary goal. Also, this particular hank was a tonal deep blue, so dark that seed stitch would be a waste of time. I didn’t think garter stitch would work either: the texture would still be lost in the yarn, plus, it would need to be stretched to death to go around my neck which would just make the cowl look strained. Stockinette stitch, of course, was going to curl inconveniently.

Okay, maybe don’t knit the next cowl. How about crochet, my go-to craft when I want a final product that’s more firm than stretchy?

Searching Ravelry, I didn’t see any crocheted cowls that were just right. But the pattern for The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl was about as straightforward as a project gets: knit a strip, block it, sew the ends together, and sew buttons on it if desired. Surely I could do the same in crochet without a pattern. If there was no point in doing fancy knitted stitches because they’d be lost in the yarn, there wasn’t any point to doing fancy crocheted ones either, so I decided to use single crochet. I tried out a few crochet hooks until I got a working gauge that I figured would hold the Caracol together but wouldn’t be too tight to crochet comfortably. And then, using my knitted cowls as templates, I copied them in single crochet. And lo, the Deep Blue Cowl was created.

Deep Blue Cowl

That was in late 2018. Apparently I was so distracted by how much I liked the cowl that I completely forgot to blog about it. Nor did I do anything organized like take notes on my made-up pattern. So late last year, when I wanted to make another cowl using a hank of Rasta, I had to reinvent it. At least I’d recorded the hook size in my Ravelry notes, plus this time, I had a crocheted cowl to work from. And now I have two:

Natural Crochet Cowl

So here’s that barebones pattern:

Crochet Cowl

Row 1: Ch 15. 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1 sc in each ch to end, turn (14 sc).
Row 2: Ch 1, sc in each sc, turn.
Repeat Row 2 until you’ve used up most of the yarn, leaving a tail long enough to sl st the end to the side of the other end. Pull the yarn end through the last loop to fasten it, but don’t cut it. Block, stretching the piece as needed. When dry, sl st one end to the side of the other end. Sew on buttons if wanted.

Deep Blue Cowl
Pattern: personal pattern; inspired by The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Caracol
Colorway: 150 Azul Profundo
Hook: 12 mm

Natural Crochet Cowl
Pattern: personal pattern; inspired by The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Colorway: 63 Natural
Hook: 12 mm

2020 by the numbers

Apparently I respond to “unprecedented” times by spending quality time with my yarn. While I only finished seven projects last year, down two from 2019, most of what I finished was larger than my projects have been lately: three sweaters and three full-fledged shawls. (The seventh project was a shawlette: can’t skip them altogether!) So 2017, with its four finished projects, is still the Year of Barely Knitting.

On to the graphics! Here’s what three sweaters, three shawls, and a shawlette look like in chart form:

Maybe using green charts this year will make up for the fact that nothing I knitted or crocheted was green:

One of the shawls (the Sunshower Shawl) used twelve different colorways, several of them multicolored in their own right, but it’s hard to get “multi-multicolored” into a pie chart. I mean, there’s probably a way, but I don’t care enough to put that much effort in. 😄 When I glanced at the shawl, though, the two colors that jumped out were blue and gray, so I split the count between them.

Next up: the crafts involved:

Again, just one crochet project. It looks like more since ⅐ is larger than last year’s ⅑. And hey, it was a larger project than 2019’s, too.

Fewer projects, but more variety in the yarn weights this year:

It’s funny how when I try to increase variety, maybe it works but usually it doesn’t, but when I impulsively choose whatever project calls me when I’m ready to start something, the variety shows up anyway.

And with that in mind, I’m not doing much for challenges this year. I’ve decided to go into 2021 with the expectation that it’ll be a lot like 2020, in the hopes that it’ll pleasantly surprise me by being an improvement, so I’m not asking a lot of myself in quantity of projects finished. I’ve just started a Hue Shift Afghan, and I figure that’ll do as a year-long project, and be challenge enough. Heck, figuring it into next year’s “Project Color” pie chart can be the challenge! 🌈

Cables & Twists Cardigan

So, hey, I’ve knitted another sweater (!). I love my shawlettes and shawls, but I do want to knit more sweaters. (Or crochet them. Really not picky about this point.) As you can tell from the name of the pattern, the Cables & Twists Cardigan is a sweater you knit for the texture, not for the colorwork.

I picked up a few Mari Dembrow patterns back in the “aughts.” (Sheesh, that was years ago. How the century flies when you’re not paying attention.) This is the first one I committed to making. I’d had my eye on KnitPicks’ Blossom Heather colorway for a while, had finally bought a sweater-quantity in Wool of the Andes Worsted during a sale in 2019, and started looking for a good pattern to pair it with. Eventually my brain linked the two.

Generally, I enjoyed knitting this. It’s a bottom-up sweater in the body, and then you sew the shoulder seams together, pick up the sleeves at the armholes, and knit back down to the cuffs. You end up knitting the large braided cables in both directions. Those large cables both add visual interest to the plain stockinette areas of the sweater and knitting interest: there’s something there to break up the monotony of both stockinette stitch and the K1 P1 ribbing. Every size has large and small braided cables and twists, but the numbers of the small cables and twists vary depending on what size you’re knitting.

Wait—let me amend the previous paragraph. Generally, yes, I enjoyed knitting this sweater, except for the sleeves. For whatever reason, I’m better at estimating the length of cuff-up sleeves than top-down ones. I ended up knitting the right sleeve 3½ times before I got the length right: too long, too short, too long. (The half-time was discovering I screwed up the cable so far back that frogging what I’d knitted up to that point was going to be faster than trying to fix just the cable). I’m glad I kept at it though, because the sleeves are just the right length for me now—this almost never happens with store-bought clothing—and the sweater is totally comfortable to wear, and looks “right.” I suppose I’m getting better at top-down sleeves: back when I knitted the Circumnavigated Cardigan, I knitted its first sleeve seven times before getting it right. 🙄 Also, I appreciate a good tight gauge when wearing a sweater, but knitting worsted-weight yarn on size 2 (2.75 mm) and size 5 (3.75 mm) needles is tiring.

If I were to knit this again, I’d want to reconsider how the plain stockinette section fits. The heavily-cabled sections fit nicely, but the plain areas are kind of baggy, which is hard to see when it’s modeled on a hanger. Yet decreasing around the waist, unless carefully planned, could pull the large braided cables to one side or another, which wouldn’t look as attractive. Not that I have to worry about that in the foreseeable future because there are too many other patterns I want to knit first. For now, though, I’m basking in the warm glow of knitting triumph…and starting an afghan. Another big project—whee!

Cables & Twists Cardigan
Pattern: Cables & Twists Cardigan
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted
Colorway: Blossom Heather
Needles: 2 (2.75 mm), 5 (3.75 mm)

Desert Rain

Having just said only a week ago, “Nope, not keen on symmetrical triangular shawlettes—hey, look at this chevron-shaped shawlette I made,” I’m now telling you about another symmetrical triangular shawlette that I knitted. Nobody reads this blog expecting consistency from me, do they? In my defense, the finished shawlette is pretty nifty despite its triangularity. And here’s some consistency: Desert Rain is a pattern by Janina Kallio, and I’ve knitted several of her shawlette patterns.

This started as several of my projects do: I was doing a bit of stash-busting, and I’d pulled out this hank of Valley Yarns Leyden that called to me. What I needed was a pattern that would set off the yarn well, be interesting enough that I’d finish it—I so do not need more UFOs in my life—and would make something that I’d actually wear. The first condition was the trickiest because the yarn had just enough color variation in it to make highly textured patterns doubtful, while not being wild enough itself to totally catch the eye (so I didn’t want to do a completely quiet pattern either, even if that didn’t violate the second condition).

Desert Rain met those conditions despite being a triangular shawl. The diagonal lines of yarnovers add interest both while knitting the shawlette. I ripped and tinked a lot more than I thought I would—it’s a lot easier than you’d think to put those yarnovers and decreases just one stitch off and only realize it four rows later. But the wide bands of garter stitch show the colors off nicely without distracting from them. What surprised me was that I had to go all the way up to size 8 (5.0 mm) needles to get gauge. With fingering-weight yarn, that made for a very drapey fabric, which solved a lot of my issues with symmetrical triangular shawlettes.

I didn’t have quite enough yarn to work the shawlette exactly as designed—now there’s another bit of consistency with Janina Kallio’s patterns I could do without—but this is the kind of pattern where that doesn’t really matter. The missing bit is in the right corner and not noticeable, especially when I’m wearing the shawlette. Speaking of wearing it…

Would I make another one? Maybe—what yarn am I trying to use? I’m thinking the symmetrical triangle shape does best as a light, drapey shawlette, like Desert Rain because of its very loose gauge. Maybe I should try working a symmetrical triangle pattern in laceweight yarn and see what happens. But for now, I’m putting my energies into seeing what I can do with chevron-shaped shawlettes.

Desert Rain
Patterns: Desert Rain
Yarn: Valley Yarns Leyden
Colorway: 11
Needle: 8 (5.0 mm)

Creativity through pattern hybridization

I am working my way towards the Perfect Shawl™. Admittedly, this is one of Plato’s ideal forms: not actually possible in the real world. But as I knit more shawls, I figure out what I like and what I don’t really care for, and I’m getting closer, at least in my own mind.

For one thing, I like the look of symmetrical triangular shawls and shawlettes. Unfortunately, having made a few, I’ve learned that they’re annoying to wear. By the time the ends are long enough to wrap securely around your neck, so much fabric has piled up in front of your neck that half the shawl is lost in a lump. It’s warm, yes, as long as it stays up, but a lump of fabric is also likely to fall down and off. Yes, there are shawl sticks and other ways to pin a shawl onto your body, but I’d prefer to modify the design of the shawl first. Also, pinning the shawl doesn’t solve the problem of the shawl’s beauty being lost in a lump.

In some ways, I am an incurable optimist. Already having the above opinion about symmetrical triangular shawls, I still decided to make a Reyna shawl in 2018. I liked how the mesh bands got wider and wider, since this added interest both to the knitting and to the look of the final product. And as promised, I could just stop knitting when I ran out of yarn, instead of desperately trying to make it to the end of a pattern repeat or quitting early and feeling like I’d wasted yarn. It’s a lovely shawlette, but yes, wearing it brings up all the issues about how it fits around the neck. Phooey.

The following year, I knitted a Delphinia shawl. I saw the similarities to Reyna, of course, and mesh bands alternating with solid ones is the basis of several fine shawls out there. Here the bands were even throughout the shawl. But by this point, I’d learned that the chevron shape is much more to my liking for wearing, since it minimizes the amount of shawl that piles up around your neck when you wear it. The “arms” of the shawl increase faster than the depth at the center front, and it’s much better suited for wrapping more evenly around your neck.

Naturally, the next step was to combine them.

Meet Reyphinia: the ever-widening mesh bands of Reyna merged with the chevron shape of Delphinia. It wasn’t all that hard to blend the patterns. The chevron shape is made by increasing at the beginning and end of each row while increasing before and after the center stitch only on the right-side rows. Essentially, what I did was knit a Delphinia with one color and with the band width increases of Reyna.

No, I haven’t achieved the Perfect Shawl™ yet. I’d like to try the Reyphinia again sometime with more than 440 yards (400 m) of fingering weight yarn just to watch the widening bands develop further. But it was an excellent result for what was pretty much an impulse to hybridize a pattern, and it made a lovely shawlette (and in a lovely color, although that’s the dyer’s achievement, not mine!).

Patterns: Reyna, Delphinia Shawl
Yarn: Passion Yarns Beloved
Colorway: Ballerina Pink
Needle: 3 (3.25 mm)