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What Not to Wear

Ah, garment knitting. So stressful. Whether it's socks, sweaters, vests, even hats, and presumably dresses and skirts (not really Uncle Stashley's thing), there's this huge investment in time and money, and at the end of the day you end up with a pullover that would only fit the character on The Umbrella Academy with the human head and the gorilla body, or maybe felted socks that would be a bit tight on a large American Girl doll.

It's perhaps the reason scarves and shawls are so popular! Anything to avoid having to get gauge. But there's a whole world out there of non-garment knitting, as I recently discovered when I began to create bookmarks. Have I shared my bookmark pattern yet?

Cast on 12 stitches of DKish yarn, knit every row until your bookmark seems long enough, bind off. (If you want to be really fancy, cast on 2 stitches and keep increasing by one until you get to 12, and if you want to be really really fancy, at the end decrease each row until you have 2 left, then bind off).

Maybe bookmarks aren't your thing. I always have about 217 books-in-progress, but you may be more of a dishcloth person. Dishcloths really are the perfect vehicle for knitting. They are basically flat and square, which is knitting's natural form. There's no obligatory shaping (I don't think anybody's favourite thing about knitting would be doing the math necessary for figuring out how to knit, say, a body-hugging sweater). They're useful, they're universal (everyone needs a dishcloth at some point, even those with dishwashers), gauge is not important, and you can practice a bazillion techniques with them. Fair Isle dishcloths? Sure, why not (especially if you don't mind one side looking much prettier than the other). Those unusual Japanese stitch patterns? Pop some garter around them and you've got yourself a dishcloth. You could pretty much dishcloth forever and never get bored—and they're small, and you'd finish often. It's a win-win-win-win-win.

I just completed my first knit toy, and there was an epic battle over who got to keep it:

(And by "epic battle" I mean nephew Finn said "Oh, can I have it?" and nephew Beck said "No fair, I want it," and nephew Finn said "Fine, you can have it, Ashley can you make me another one in a different colour?" and I said "Of course." That's how we fight in our family, on the best of days).

His name is Buster, because the pattern by Susan Claudino-Aguilar is called Buster (I feel like the kid in Good Omens who named his dog "Dog"). Here he is from the back:

I used Hedgehog Fibres' Alpaca DK in the Cherry Blossom colourway for his skin, and Swift Yarns High Street DK (unnamed blue colour) for his onesie. These were bought in Brooklyn at the Argyle Yarn Shop (the Cherry Blossom is a special colourway just for them). So he's really Buster from Brooklyn.

His eyes are from Button Button in Gastown (in Vancouver, my home base. If you're ever in Vancouver, and you like buttons, don't miss it!)

It was a fun knit, although it didn't necessary run smooth at all times. I was confused at one point in the pattern—we were told to add limbs with the purl side at the back, but I couldn’t see a purl side since the limbs were stockinette in the round. I’d completely forgotten that the very final row of each limb (which was knit as a three needle bind-off* without the actual bind-off*) created purl bumps on one side, so one of my limbs is attached the wrong way. I also broke a needle during the final decreases, sigh—my first breakage in five years of knitting, so it was bound to happen sometime (I’m not used to such tiny needles—you knit with a tighter gauge than you’d expect for the yarn size, in order to keep all the fluff inside, not that I used fluff, I used cut-up socks with holes in them.

There will definitely be some more knit toys in my future, especially since I promised nephew Finn another Buster in different colours.

Off the Needles:

  • Buster (see above)

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Cafe Knitting (7 repeats into Section 3)

  • Sling Heel Socks (3 inches past the toe)

  • Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm 7/8 through the fourth repeat)

On the Backburner:

  • Another 1898 hat (it's just such good airplane knitting, I had to do it again. I've finished the band)

  • The second Sophie's Universe blanket (Round 50)

  • A swatch of stockinette in white worsted (third of three needle sizes) for my Master Knitting Course

  • Caldwell Vest (halfway through armhole shaping on the back)

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 6 of Hexagon 9)


*Three Needle Bind-off = a method for connecting two separate pieces of knitting (often used to connect front and back pieces at the shoulder, say). With all the stitches from each piece on its own needle, you hold both needles together, and simply knit two together onto a third needle, repeat, bind-off, repeat, bind-off, etc., until everything's been joined and bound off and you're good to go.

*Three Needle Bind-off without the actual bind-off = as above, but don't do the bind off. You're left with all the stitches on one needle, helpfully ready to be knit together with yet another piece (this could theoretically go on indefinitely, if you wanted to knit, say, a whip).

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