Saturday, February 20, 2010

Made for my Millie-Pie

Aaaaaaahhh... I've been slack. Nuff said.

Despite not doing much writing in the past few weeks, I HAVE done plenty of knitting. Time to play blogging catch up!

Todays entry is about my first piece of gift knitting! Namely, a neckwarmer I made for my very very dear friend Millie, who moved to Perth to start med school a couple of weeks ago (Waaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!)

This piece, like many of my starter pieces was inspired by the yarn - another ball I had bought during my early forays into my local craft store. It was a bulky blend of 70% wool and 30% soy dyed in long sections of different colours to create what I would call "blendy stripes". You know what I mean right? Stripes that blend gradually into each other rather than being sharply delineated. (No I couldn't have just said that in the first place...)

So they only had one ball of the colourway I liked - but this was before I understood that one ball of yarn would not make any size garment... so I didn't worry. What I wanted to do with it was make a keyhole scarf, like the "Windy City Scarf" in my Stitch 'n' Bitch book. At first I thought this would be a simple matter of knitting my way along, splitting the stitches into two halves, continuing to knit on one side, cutting that side off, knitting the other half, then joining the two back together to make the keyhole and carrying on. Can you spot what is wrong with that plan?

It came to me in a 3am attack of insomnia: the colours on either side of the keyhole wouldn't match! One side would be out of sync with the other and there would be two ugly non-blendy joins near to the keyhole! Oh woe! I realised that the only way to get the effect I wanted was to come up with two strands of yarn that were in colour alignment for either side of the keyhole. This was made difficult by my concurrent realisation that I really didn't have that much yarn to work with - and aligning colours for the keyhole would, by nature involve a fair bit of wastage.

This was a conundrum, so I set about examining my ball of yarn carefully. I unwound it entirely, examining the entire length, looking for how many colour repeats there were, how long each one was etc. And then I discovered that the manufacturers had done something very naughty that saved my bacon.

About 3/4 of the way along the 85m length of yarn, there was a knot. Now, I understand that manufacturers do sometimes need to join strands to make up the ball of yarn, but in a self-blendy-stripey ball of yarn, they really should join same colours together, so the pattern is continued. In this case however, they had joined two different points in the colour repeat pattern. This would have been awful if I was doing a basic scarf, but in this case, it meant I could find an aligning colour pattern with much less waste than I would otherwise have had. Phew!

That just left the problem of the small amount of yarn. I decided to just give it a go and keep my fingers crossed on that count. But to be sure, placed a marker at 10m of yarn. I knitted up to that point, measured, realised that with my original number of cast on stitches the scarf would only be 30cm long, and frogged it all back. I used that measurement to calculate a cast on width that would work and I was away.

I knitted the piece in single rib and was surprised at how fast it went and how quickly I got into the rhythm of switching between knit and purl stitches. And gee it looked nice too. So neat on both sides. I finished the knitting in one evening, and boy did those stripes come up nice.

However, when I tried it on as a keyhole scarf the word I would have to use to describe it was "garrote". It also looked wierd with the two short little ends sticking out like some kind of mutant bow tie. I needed to find another way to make it wearable.

So I went looking for buttons... And I found an awesome pair. They were from a line of buttons carried by spotlight that are designed to be mixed and matched (I think they might have been called "Creative Buttons" but can't be sure). The buttons were all convex and stackable, so that you could place, say, a square button on/in a larger round one. And thats just what I did. Spent more on the buttons than the yarn but they went together really well.

So the keyhole became a buttonhole, and the keyhole scarf became a dandy little neckwarmer that can be worn centred, for a casual classic look, or to one side with the tail lying down on the front of the shoulder for a neat parisienne style, or to the other side with the tail projecting jauntily off to the side (see the three ways that lovely Millie is modelling it in the pictures).

Millie loved it. It's so rewarding to give a gift to someone who really appreciates it (and then expresses a hope for slippers and a shrug too). And it makes me happy to think of my precious Millsome off in Perth (where apparently it gets "thermal underwear cold") wearing and enjoying something handmade for her with love. She's one of my favourite people in the world and this is a way I can feel connected with her even though she is now so far away (again Waaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!)

We had a lovely last day together. Burgers at Grill'd for lunch, a little bit of shopping, and then back to her place for a last chat, hugs, and her modelling for this blog entry. She also very kindly volunteered to model evidence of my newfound yarn obsession. You see, that morning, I had popped by spotlight, just for a look, and raided that sale bin of yarn. It was on special to begin with, but then, apparently, they had a computer glitch at the tills which meant that they had to give me each bag of yarn (5-10 balls) for the price of one ball of yarn. I offered to pay the full sale price but the operator insisted there was nothing thay could do about it. Result - I got about $350 worth of yarn for $45. Bargain. Now I just need to buy a bigger house to store it all...

When Mill saw tis giant sack of yarn in my car her response was "Oh my God this bag of yarn is as big as Twinkle!" So to illustrate, here are a couple of the lovely, beautiful, vivacious, photogenic, and all-round awseome Millie
hefting my Twink-worth of yarn.

I miss you dude!!!