Oh, Pretty Baby

Baby blanket beforeBaby blanket afterLook at those two photos. If you saw that mass (or mess) of yarns on the left sitting in a pile, would you have any idea that the finished product would look like that infinitely touchable baby blanket on the right? Nope, me neither. I went into Fine Points Yarn Shop on Larchmere in the Shaker Heights neighborhood of Cleveland shortly after my birthday. They had sent me a quite generous birthday discount offer, and I was determined to use it!

My daughter-in-law has suggested that I make a baby blanket or two for her photo studio. She thinks her brides from a couple of years ago, who are now having babies, would be interested in purchasing one of my blankets for their photos shoots with the new babes. So I asked what the ladies at Fine Points might suggest for such a project.

The clerk who was helping me led me upstairs to the baby and child room. When she showed me that pile of yarns, all wrapped up in a plastic bag with a pattern that said “Oh, Pretty Baby: A Baby Blanket Using Bits,” I wasn’t so sure. After purchasing it and scheduling it as my next knitting project, I wasn’t so sure. But 10 rows into it? I was smitten!

The price on the kit was higher than I wanted to spend and the finished project would be higher, I thought, than a new mom would want to pay. Luckily, my spousal equivalent just acquired a brand new great-niece. Guess who’s getting a blanket? Cora is, that’s who.

The pattern couldn’t be simpler. Cast on 95 stitches. Use the base yarn—Schachenmayr Crazy Cotton (the kit used color #82)—throughout. At all times, hold a second yarn, picking up one of the “bits” – the random small balls of yarn. The “bits” can be eyelash yarn or a similar novelty yarn, or they can be chenille or bumpy or, really, whatever. They give the interest to the base yarn. The stitch? Garter stitch throughout. Knit every stinking row. Just keep knittin’. Couldn’t be easier.

After a lot of television shows and audio books, the blanket was finished. (The pattern suggests knitting to 30″. I wish I had gone a little farther, as it’s not quite square.) It’s beautiful. And soft. A nice weight to throw over the baby in the crib or as she’s riding in her stroller.

I threw it into the washer on the hand-wash setting, then into the dryer on a similar setting, then, while still damp, laid it flat on a table to finish drying.

I can’t wait to hear from Cora’s mom when she receives it. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind gift.

Another Finished Scarf

Broken Cable PatternA month ago I wrote about a pattern I had started and then discarded, and the scarf that was to take its place.

I started the scarf in July. It was to be a two-skein scarf. I took it along on our Independence Day week at Lake Erie, and got quite a bit done. After we got home, I finished the first skein and started on the second. The scarf is 60 stitches wide, and is not what I categorize as a TV-watching pattern. Because of the broken cables, it’s a pattern that requires counting every stitch and every row.

I said I started on the second skein. I didn’t say I double-checked the color number on the second skein against the first skein. After knitting another—probably—10 inches on the second skein, I realized that the two colors were different. There was no way to disguise the fact that I had screwed up.

Sooooo, I removed my needles and pulled out all the stitches. And cast on again.

Having already done this once, I decided I wanted a scarf that was a smidge narrower and longer. I figured out a way to narrow the pattern by 10 stitches without messing up the broken cables.

And at the end of last week I finished it, washed and blocked it, and said Ta Da!

And passed it along to a friend who will get more use out of it than I.

What’s up next, you ask. Glass. I’m switching to glass for a while. My grandson and I are taking an introductory lampworking class next weekend. (Yes, I’ve already made a number of beads, but he’s only 11, so I feel the need to sit next to him in the class and make sure there’s not a problem. I’m that kind of grandma.)

Sleepy Bunny

When I saw the bear and rabbit dolls designed by Debbie Bliss for Noro Yarns, I knew the rabbit was going on my list of projects. My grandson loves bunnies passionately, so the bunny will be offered to him for his bunny collection.

I love Noro Kureyon yarn. A year ago I made a throw for our family room out of Noro Kureyon in their color #321, black/brown/gray. This throw is perfect on our brown couch, and keeps my toes completely toasty while I’m knitting and watching television. All Noro yarns are hand-dyed in luscious colors, with occasional unexpected hues thrown in to help the knitter create magic. While the black/brown/gray is pretty mundane for Noro, the color I chose for Boston’s Bunny, #319 Lime/Orange, was full of unexpected combinations.

RabbitThe thing about knitting with any hand-dyed yarn is not really knowing where the colors are going to change. So when knitting something like a toy—where you’re knitting a couple of legs, a couple of arms, a body, a head, and a couple of ears, then sewing them all together—Is that you don’t know what color a leg will be or an arm will be.

But look at him! Isn’t he darling?! Can you even imagine that Boston won’t absolutely, totally love this bunny?!

I don’t think I’ll make more (um, unless requested). But he sure is cute, and I learned some things about making toys.

Learning is always a good thing, in my book.

A Stained Glass Road Trip

What began in June as an I’m-going-to-strip-this-old-trim-off-10-layers-of-paint project has morphed into a whole-new-breakfast-nook effort. Let’s be clear: I could not have done this project without my Spousal Equivalent, the Jazzman.

When I got portions of the trim in the breakfast nook down to bare wood, we realized the bare wood in the living room and dining room—the “public areas” of the house, by 1927 standards—was a much higher quality wood than what was in the “family areas.”

Once that was determined, continuing the brutal task of stripping the wood to stain and varnish it made no sense. So I started looking at kitchen design magazines and Lowe’s paint swatches. I settled on Valspar Ultra White gloss for the woodwork and Bermuda Sand semi-gloss for the walls and inside of the china cabinet. I think the exterior wall, where the window is, will be an accent color. The preliminary choice is Jekyll Club Pulitzer Blue, a Valspar National Trust for Historic Preservation color. But I reserve the right to change my mind before the paint hits the wall. We’ve spent a couple of weekends prepping and priming the room, and are just about ready to go.

Ever since we “inherited” Mother’s counter-height bar stools, we’ve wanted a bar table in that room. We’ve gone back and forth as to size and placement. I want it facing the windows. The Jazzman wants it perpendicular to that wall, with one chair on either side. That way, he says, he can look at me when we’re sitting at the bar with our glasses of wine, solving the world’s problems. When one’s sweetheart says, “I want to look at your pretty face,” …. Well, it’s hard to argue with that!

I searched and searched the Internet for tables of the right size (24″ wide) and height (36″) and could find nothing reasonably priced ($100-150). Then I started thinking about using my artistic knowledge and skilled fingers. I’ve made glass mosaic tabletops before. True, I no longer have the bulk of the tools, but that shouldn’t stand in my way.

I checked out a couple of books from the library and perused my own library, settling on the “Night Moves” project from George W. Shannon and Pat Torlen’s “Marvelous Mosaics for Home & Garden.”

Now to accumulate the supplies. I visited the local Abstract Stained Glass studio and was distinctly unimpressed and disappointed. I was spoiled learning stained glass and mosaics from Genia Parker in Tucson. I knew I wouldn’t find what I needed in Youngstown. So I started exercising my Google abilities. When the Jazzman got called in to work today, I decided it was a good day for a road trip.

I chose two stores, knowing if I found everything in the first, I could skip the second. I started with Rennaisance [sic] and Rainbows in Middlefield, Ohio (“the fourth largest Amish population in the nation”). The studio was in the back of the owner’s home. The lady who helped me was very nice, but the selection of glass that suited my project wasn’t very broad. And there was an older man working in there—apparently the owner or the owner’s spouse—who was just, to put it simply, Very Strange. Unlike my standard of Ochoa Stained Glass in Tucson, this was not a studio I would feel comfortable working in. I bought one piece of iridized glass, but the coating was not consistent across the glass and I will have lots of leftover glass from this piece.

Taking my carefully wrapped sheet of glass, I headed out for stop #2: Leaded Glass Design in Cuyahoga Falls. To be succinct, “Wow!” “Home!” The nice people and the great selection of Tucson’s Ochoa Stained Glass, transplanted to Northeast Ohio!!

Joe, the owner, pointed out the locations of the various types of glass. He has a GREAT backlit rack on top of the storage bins with a 4″x4″ sample of EVERY PIECE OF GLASS IN THE STORE. You can see what you want. You can touch what you want. You can find what you want! GLASS HEAVEN!!!

I got more iridized black to use for this project. I’ll save the piece from Middlefield to teach the grandkids foiling or mosaics or something. I also got a reddish/purplish iridized, and an opaque black and an opaque dark red. And then, just because I could and because I picked up a tank of MAP gas the other day, I got three rods of Moretti, some mandrels, and a jar of bead release. Boston has been asking me for years to learn to make beads. The time has come for some elementary lampworking lessons.

I need to order some unglazed granite mosaic tiles from an online supplier and come up with a cutter and a nipper. I need to determine the exact dimensions of the table and have some plywood cut. And I need to expand the 10″x10″ pattern to fit the approx. 24″ x 40″ table.

Once those tasks are done, I’ll have a few happy days cutting and placing glass and then grouting.

Ah, creativity!

(And because I know you’re dying to know, here’s the answer: 142 miles)

Forget that Swirl Shawl!

Farm Field ScarfA month ago I posted my summer project. After knitting two or three of the swirls that would make up the scarf, I threw my needles on the table and said, “No, I Won’t!”

I pulled out every stitch I had done, wrapped the yarn back around the ball and went in search of a better pattern for that yarn.

I have never sewn or knitted anything for my guy. His skin is sensitive to much wool yarn, so scarves he purchases have to be of very fine, un-itchy wool. But this yarn—Jojoland Variegated Fingering Weight Superwash—should be gentle to his skin. Blossom Garden is a subtle variegation of brick red, steel blue, and bits of soft mustard and sage green. The scarf pattern I found has little broken cables that make it seem more masculine than other scarf patterns I’ve explored.

So that’s what’s on my needles now. It’s a little complex. It’s not a pattern I can mindlessly knit while watching television or carrying on a conversation. The pattern requires concentration, but that’s the only downside.

Here we go: 60 stitches times (4 border rows top and bottom plus 24 pattern rows knitted 16 times). Um, that’s 23,520 stitches.

That should take up any spare time I have this summer.