Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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August round-up

August is not the best time to keep a crafting blog up-to-date. August is both the month in which state fair entries are due and the month of my family reunion. It’s not that I’m not crafting; I just don’t have time to write about it. This year, I managed to combine both sources of pressure in my life by hauling state fair entries along with me to the reunion. This was going to be the only way I could finish them in time since I was going to be out of town up until the last 24 hours in which entries could be turned in. Plus, knitting would be a fine way to pass the hours of a six-hour bus ride across the Upper Midwest. So here’s all that’s been finished in the last month.

Lexington vest

Lexington Vest

Lexington vest (fair)

The Lexington Vest at the fair

The Lexington vest has been in my life since 2008. This is the project that taught me that I have no patience for intarsia. As you can see, the design is simple enough, but I instantly lost interest in wrapping the yarns on each and every row. It ended up being shoved from one place to another in my apartment, and I would work on it in occasional bursts of guilt before dropping it again and gratefully finding something else to work on. I unearthed it again in early August and impulsively vowed to get it done for this year’s fair (there was still half of the front left, plus finishing). Chances are, if I hadn’t set myself that deadline, it could have languished in my closet for another three years. I was just using the fair as motivation for this project; I didn’t seriously expect it to win anything. I probably figured if I didn’t like it, no one else would like it either. And then much to my surprise, it took third in its category.

Sandy Smoke Ring

Sandy Smoke Ring

I’ve called this the Sandy Smoke Ring, mostly to distinguish it from the pink version that I knitted last fall. It didn’t place at the fair, but that’s all right. I have no idea what I’ll wear it with, but I still like it. I am, however, getting increasingly frustrated with Mini Mochi. This was the yarn that had such extreme color variation within the same dye lot when I used the Babyface colorway for the Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf. This time around, the colors were quietly restrained—hallelujah! However, the second ball was wound in the opposite direction of the first. Luckily I realized that before starting to knit with it and having the top third of the cowl with colors going in a reverse sequence. Even ripping out as simple a lace pattern as Feather and Fan would’ve been a nasty challenge.

Peaceful Pastels afghan (fair)

Peaceful Pastels Afghan

The Peaceful Pastels Afghan placed second in the round crocheted afghans division.

 

 

 

 

 

Marble Throw (red)

Marble Throw (red)

What with working in a chilly office, I’m developing quite an appreciation for wraps, throws, afghans, shawls, and anything else that can make work bearable. This is the second time I’ve made this lap blanket. This time around, I went down a needle size, from 11 to 10½. At this tighter gauge, I was able to knit the entire blanket as the designer intended without running out of yarn, and the blanket just feels better at this gauge. I’m still taken enough with the yarn to want to make another one, so now I’m figuring that this one will stay home (I already gave it a workout at a strongly air-conditioned Starbucks a couple of nights ago) and I’ll make another one for the office.


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Mega baby blanket

Despite never being sure what my gauge was, despite not having the right crochet hook on hand, and despite having to rip the entire afghan out when I was only four rounds from the end and start over, I have finished the Peaceful Pastels Afghan:

Peaceful Pastels afghan

I love how the colors blend together. You start with seven “pure” colors: white, yellow, peach, pink, lavender, blue, and green. Holding two strands together throughout, you blend the colors by working rounds of two different colors in between the rounds of two strands of the same color.

I’d been admiring this kit for about four years before I finally broke down and bought it this spring. I kept telling myself that I had no need for a baby blanket. But I couldn’t forget the colors, and every time a new Mary Maxim catalog came, I found myself quickly skimming through the baby section to look at the photo again and reassure myself they hadn’t discontinued it. After a while, it did sink it that maybe I should just make the afghan and stop obsessing over it.

I was also hesitant to take on this project because of the yarn. I’d been able to touch it in local stores, and it felt more artificial than many unnatural fibers do. I’ve also learned it’s not all that much fun to work with. It split constantly, even though the 8.00 mm crochet hook I finally ended up using could hardly be described as sharp. Now that it’s done, it snags on the band to my wristwatch. On the bright side, the colors really do blend nicely, it survived its first trip through the washer and dryer without incident, and the slightly bouclé texture does an excellent job of hiding those little snags.

This pattern does make a baby blanket to be taken seriously. Although the stated diameter on the pattern is 50″, mine comes in at 52″. Since those two strands of yarn you use are each DK-weight, the finished afghan is thick and doesn’t have as much drape as many baby blankets do. But since I’m planning on using this as an adult blanket on the couch, it’s probably good that it’s not all that delicate.


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The gauge swatch lied (again)

Signs that you might be off-gauge with your current project:

  • The kit you’re making it from came with two skeins of blue yarn. You’ve used somewhat more than half of one skein.
  • Although it’s a baby blanket, the fabric has the drape of a throw rug.
  • The pattern swears that the diameter of the finished blanket is 50 inches. Remember that you have decided that there’s an error somewhere and the finished diameter will be closer to 44 inches. Still, the fact that the four remaining rounds of the blanket cannot possibly bring it up to even 44 inches should give you pause.

Looks like my 8.00 mm hook will be getting a workout after all.


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Hooked

So, say you’ve known how to crochet for a while, like since you were nine years old. And having an eye for the tools of your craft, over the years you’ve acquired a few crochet hooks. Like, about three sets of hooks sized for yarn, quite a few steel hooks (often used with crochet thread), and even a set of Tunisian crochet hooks before they vanished until recently. So with all those crochet hooks at hand, when you start a new crochet project, you probably think about the yarn, you think about the difficulty of the pattern, you think about the gauge, but you don’t think about the hook, other than to note what the size is and retrieve one from the inventory.

Earlier this week, fired with a passion to start some project of some sort, I pulled the Peaceful Pastels Afghan out of my stash and prepared to dive in. As this project came as a kit, it’s good for instant gratification: there’s the yarn, there’s the pattern—just add hook and begin. The afghan uses two strands of Bernat Baby Coordinates yarn held together, and although this is a sport weight yarn, the two strands together make a chunky yarn, and so the pattern calls for a K (7.00 mm) hook. Which of course, if you own enough crochet hooks to open your own crochet supply store, shouldn’t be a problem to come up with.

As it turned out, K hooks I have in abundance, but 7.00 mm hooks are non-abundant. I’m guessing that in the process of standardization—which overall has been a good thing—7.00 mm hooks became extinct, at least in the United States. K hooks measure 6.50 mm nowadays. For my knitting readers, this is the equivalent of a size 10½ needle. Indeed, I’m wondering if all this standardization was meant to bring crochet hooks more in line with knitting needles. The only company that I’m aware of that offers a 7.00 mm knitting needle (size 10¾) is Addi, which is based in Germany. While many places that sell Addi needles sell the 10¾ needles, they haven’t taken the American knitting world by storm, and I don’t recall ever seeing a pattern that calls for them.

Like I said, overall, I believe standardization was a good thing. The letter sizes of crochet hooks still aren’t as fixed to the metric measurements as knitting needle number sizes are, mostly at the ends of the size range, but there’s a lot less wiggle room than there used to be. But did crochet hooks necessarily need to be matched precisely to knitting needles in size? Perhaps it made things easier on the manufacturing end somewhere, but I’d hate to think we lost the 7.00 mm crochet hook just because there isn’t a letter between K and L (the 8.00 mm hook) the way Addi could slip a 10¾ in between 10½ and 11.

So, no concluding thoughts as to the issue itself. As for my afghan project, I started out a bit worried. I’m a tight crocheter, and I was hesitant to use a 6.50 mm hook and still hope to get gauge, but an 8.00 mm hook was probably just going to give me the opposite problem. So I was staring absently at my oldest set of crochet hooks, wondering which to choose, when it occurred to me to wonder why that set had two K hooks in it. I buy multiple sets of hooks, yes, but I don’t buy multiples of any one size in a set, since it’s much easier in crochet to slip your hook out and take it to another project than it is to move a knitting needle from one project to another. One hook clearly said “K/10½—6.50 MM” on it; the other just said “K.” In growing hope, I grabbed the needle sizer. Yes, the plain K hook, bought back in the 1970s when I was first learning to crochet, was 7.00 mm. And using it, I got gauge for the afghan.


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Inspiring a repeat

This throw exists for a few simple reasons:

  • I was curious about the yarn (Marble Chunky).
  • It’s perpetually cold where I work.
  • Lap blankets work well with office chairs: large enough to cover your legs, but narrow enough that they’re not trailing all over the floor with little tire tracks along the edges where you ran over them with the chair.
  • This one was knit on size 11 needles. I’m in desperate psychological need of a quick project, what with almost all my projects having ground to a halt.

Pink Marble Throw

Having now had this at work for about a week, I can tell you that it’s light but warm and easy to fold up and put in a desk drawer when not in use (given the temperature of the office this week, it’s been in use pretty constantly, so that last part is a bit of a hypothetical).

Between the occasional afghan I knit or crochet and the linen closet’s worth of throws that I own, one lap blanket might be fine, but I hardly need a collection. But in making this one, I’ve got a few ideas about how I could improve the next one, and how can I do that unless I actually make another one? I think it could stand to be narrower yet; unless I pull it up just right, the corners trail on the floor. The pattern called for two balls of Marble Chunky. Even though I got stitch gauge, I didn’t get row gauge, and learned how crucial that was when the first ball ran out before I got to the halfway point of the pattern. I ended up dropping one pattern repeat to keep from having to order a third ball—and the finished blanket is only a couple of inches shorter than the projected length anyway. Since I think the lap blanket would benefit from a slightly tighter gauge anyway, maybe I could drop down a needle size or two and see what dimensions the blanket was then. On top of which, I’m thinking maybe I could work the pattern in Homespun, which is much easier to get locally.

So I want to make this second lap blanket right now. Really not a good idea. Yes, it’s only April, but if I want to enter the Mitered Diamonds Afghan in the state fair this fall, I need to keep working on it. It’s not on size 11 needles, it’s bigger than a lap blanket, and it’s a lot more complicated. But if spring keeps pretending to be winter, at least huddling under a half-knitted afghan won’t be a hardship.


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Slogging along

This has not been a month of vast knitting progress. Of course, if I commit to a project the size of an afghan, even a small afghan, this really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. And I’m back in school, and I’m caught in a proficiency exam, and I’ve been distracted by several non-knitting projects, and yes, after a while, there just isn’t much time for knitting. Even so, I do fit in a few rows every now and then.

Mitered Afghan squareThis is one motif for my current project. At this writing, I’m about a third of the way through the afghan, but haven’t felt like taking a more up-to-date photo of the project. Just imagine it surrounded by 178 siblings and you’ll get the idea. The yarn is Boku, one of the variegated yarns, so some of those other motifs are in completely different colors. By this point, the fraction of the afghan is big enough to keep the tops of my legs warm while knitting on it, which is good given that it’s still chilly at this time of year.