Slowing down: Longma’s Shawl + Cockle Shell Shawl

Close up on Longma's Cowl, a repeating whale tail patterned worked in a grey gradient.

Knitting is categorically not a fast activity, even the simplest project requires time for the stitches to come together into a workable object. Several years ago, I think I accidently clocked a pair of socks by the number of graduate classes I was able to work the same pair through (it was taking me a bit less than a week and a half for those of you who are curious, now I can work the leg off a sock in a 45 minute tv episode if it’s simple enough). Despite this understanding, I have still been known to attempt to crank out a last minute knit or two during the holiday season.

When seeking a faster knit, I find the secret is in the similicity of the project. Anything worked in stockinett stitch in the round tends to jump off my needles a lot faster than something worked flat or with a pattern that requires more focus (I’m thinking of you, Leaves of Grass) and it’s not that I’m looking for speed when working on knitting projects, it’s just that projects that are typically good for zoom meetings are the same ones that fly off ones needles.

Over the last few months, I’ve started seeking out projects with stitch patterns that slow me down and require me to focus some energy on them. Sure, this means that it’s harder to throw them down when naptime is suddenly over, but it also means that I’m required to be more mindful about my craft. Focus on each stitch and relax into the design.

This started with Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardi, with knits and purls working together to form a waffle pattern and moved onto several other textured knits before moving into the land of lace stitches. Longma’s Cowl is a ten row lace repeat that forms a whale’s tail after the second repeat. The repeat is worked over and over again until you run out of yarn and honestly doesn’t take that long to memorize.

Longma’s Cowl was an interesting experiment in “what happens if I work a gradient set out of order?”. While I’m thrilled with the way the colors look together and the stitch pattern, I’m not sure I love the idea of the two together. I worry that the stripping takes away from the stitches, but perhaps that’s more of a me problem.

Close up of the cockle shell cowl, a lace shell pattern knit up in a light purple color.

The other slow knit I’ve completed recently, or rather ironically cranked out, is the Cockle Shell Cowl. I worked up the 9 inch single wrap, but highly recommend the 7 inch double wrap as it will end up growing width wise in the end. Another easy to memorize repeat, the main reason this project worked up so fast is due to the needle size the pattern calls.

Something about this purple colorway has made me obsessed with purple all of a sudden, I’m planning on using the leftover yarn from my cowl and the dark grey leftovers from my pivotal point shawl to work a hat (Harlow? Vintage Prim?).

All these samples later and I’m still obsessed with Wonderland Yarns — I literally find myself working up their needs before reaching for other yarns/projects in my stash. It’s been such a fun way to work with colors that are outside my typical comfort zone. Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs) :]

Navy Homestead Button Flap Hat

Close-up of a navy knit hat with a large yellow button holding the top flap down.

There is nothing better than visiting a yarn shop and wandering aimlessly through the shelves in order to find your next treasure. Well, nothing better than wandering said yarn shop with my husband. Though he’s not a knitter, you will not find a non-knitter who is more excited to engage in the community. So when we visited The Elegant Ewe in Concord before our daughter was born, I found myself laughing as he selected his own sock yarn and fell in love with a hat design before begging me to knit it for him.

The Homestead Button Flap Hat is not a garment that I would make for myself, nor is it a garment I would expect him to wear on a regular basis. That being said, I can remember the moment his eyes spotted the shop sample vividly. To say they lit up like a kid in a candy shop for the first time would be an understatement. In fact, it was one of those moments where I would have knit him the object no matter what it was (well almost no matter what it was).

The hat itself is a free pattern designed with Plymouth Yarn’s Homestead in mind. Hubs selected a navy tweed in the yarn line and we took home a printout offered by the yarn store. It took me about 5 days to complete the project, but I probably could have cranked it out in a day or two if I had really set my mind to it.

Once the giant yellow button was attached, this hat became a winter staple. Hubs even packed it in his hospital bag because he wanted to meet our daughter in it! I’m not sure I would make this pattern again unless asked, but I highly recommend it if you’re looking to make a hat with a different construction.

Simplest Baby Blanket Pattern

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Sublime Extra Fine Merino Worsted; Colors = 506, 507, 485, 553

Recently, I visited my Cioci to deliver a sweater that I seamed for her and a sweater that I made for her. During this visit, we both realized that we had assumed the other world make my sister a baby blanket and couldn’t help but laugh at the realization. We had both been enthusiastically working on different projects, oblivious to the idea that the other was doing the same. By the end of the visit, I had volunteered to purchase some yarn and to take on the blanket.

I have a very patient partner and very patient friends. Sure, they started in a different store while I went yarn shopping, but it’s important to remember that this trip was originally meant to be an “in and out”. Originally, I had a plan of yarn to grab and then we were going to grab lunch. Originally, I had not planned on taking over an hour and a half to pick out yarn. I’m very lucky to have friends who were ok entertaining themselves and were ok with me asking “what about this color combination” 300 times.

There are a lot of baby blankets out there, I should have been able to find a pattern that suited my needs. True, I blindly grabbed yarn and hoped I would have enough to make something and yes, I didn’t think about how to use four colors while I was selecting them, but I wanted a fun baby blanket that wasn’t pastel. Something that would grow with my future niece as she phased out of pastels. Something that wouldn’t drive me crazy to knit.

The problem is that I don’t find stripes particularly riveting. Stripes felt like a cop-out. Chevron was an exercise that seemed like a lot of work for a generic blanket. None of the alternative shapes really spoke to me (except maybe the Knitted Starghan, which since this blanket isn’t done yet there is still time to change my mind and knit it). I wanted bright, marled, and mindless.

So here’s what I’ve come up with, a bias blanket that is completely adjustable! It can be knit in any weight yarn on any size needle! Simply increase until you’ve used up about half your yarn and then decrease back down. Hold yarn double (or triple or whatever) if you want a marled look. Hold yarn against itself and then together with the next color(s) if you want more of a gradient. Don’t like garter stitch? Purl every other row. So. Many. Options.

My blanket specs:

  • Gauge: 14st x 12 rows = 4×4 inches unblocked
  • Needle size: US 11
  • Yarn used: 8 skeins of Sublime Extra Fine Merino Worsted or 874 yards (note: yarn held double)
  • Finished Blanket dimensions: 26×30 (note: blanket will grow when wet blocked)

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The World’s Simplest Baby Blanket

Yarn estimates (DK, Worsted, Aran, Bulky) in yards

  • Carseat blanket (~24x24in): (580, 410, 325, 230)
  • Stoller blanket (~30x30in): (1090, 770, 610, 428)
  • Receiving blanket (34x36in): (1480, 1050, 830, 580)
  • Crib blanket (~40x45in): (2250, 1600, 1270, 890)

Pattern

Set-Up
CO1
Row 1: KFB (2 sts)
Row 2: K
Row 3: KFB, K to end

Repeat row 3 until half of your yarn has been used

Row 4: K1, K2tog, K to end
Repeat until 2 sts remain

Row 5: K
Row 6: K2tog
BO

Weave in ends.

In Stillness Cardigan

A young woman taking a photo of herself with her back to a mirror in hopes of showing off the texturing of both the front and back pieces of the cardigan she is wearing.
In Stillness Cardigan, knit in Wool of the Andes Worsted

I’ve dabbled in test knitting, most of which was done while I was a new knitter and didn’t want to pay for patterns. During my time working for Webs, a place I would have stayed if the desire to become a librarian hadn’t been so strong, I spent a lot of time knitting up samples for the store in exchange for store credit. And in grad school, I had the pleasure of knitting for the Fibre Company in exchange for yarn, a sweater for a sweater if you will. I’m not a designer, though I hope to design my dog a sweater or two that I can share with other dog lovers, I lack the creative eye that so many designers have. Despite my feelings on deadlines, I would actually love a job where yarn companies sent me yarn to knit up into various garments (seriously though how does one get a job like that?).

When Alicia Plummer posted on her Instagram, I couldn’t help but reach out and politely ask if I could knit up her pattern. For me, it’s hard not to love Alicia’s patterns. They’re simple and often play with texture and color in a subtle way. My only complaint is that I don’t have hips and her waist shaping looks wonky on me — though through no fault of her designing. This is more or less a roundabout way of say I had a fangirl moment when she said yes and had to remain calm when the email with her pattern arrived in my inbox.

A young woman takes a selfie of herself in her bedroom mirror wearing a hand knit grey cardigan.
Wooden buttons selected by Mars, the poet in my life.

I know it was a worsted weight cardigan and I’ve been working in fingering weight, but when you factor in the busyness of the holiday season, it knit up fast. Each stitch sliding across my needles as I listen to my Uncle discuss how he was doing post chemo or my mom discuss the wonders of her new job. Ironically, this pattern helped me sit in stillness during a chaotic time of the year. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I was a little sad to sew on the last button.

The sweater is not for me, it was never going to be for me. As the cardigan began to take shape, I knew it was destined to rest upon my Cioci shoulders. To give her strength when the world tests her, but also to thank her for her love and kindness through the years. Perhaps, and I say this a little guiltily, also because I was charged with seeming and knitting the button bands of one of her incomplete sweaters (she’s a crocheter and doesn’t often knit) and I can’t bring myself to finish it (while seeming does suck, I’m actually worried the sweater won’t fit her).

I can’t decide whether to mail the finished sweater or enjoy the long drive that separates us to give it to her in person. Either way, I think I’m going to modify the pattern by adding buttons to the front (sewn on, probably in the same texture as the top part) and finish seeming her sweater before putting them both into her hands.