Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hearts & Turquoise

Some years ago I bought 750 grams of a turquoise worsted yarn at Value Village for perhaps three or four dollars. The yarn was wound into several balls and plainly had been knitted up before. I have no idea what brand of yarn it was, though I was fairly certain it was a cotton. I originally planned to knit the yarn into cushions for one of the bedrooms in my house, but I ended up going with another stash yarn for that project. Then I didn't know what to do with it until I caught sight of it in my cottons box some months ago and began to see it as the perfect yarn for a little girl's jacket that could in turn make a nice gift for my grandniece's seventh birthday.

A search of children's jacket patterns on Ravelry produced the Lavanda pattern, designed by Elena Nodel. It really is lovely and almost romantic in style.

This is the finished jacket. It's knitted up in a child's size eight. I had a little trouble knitting the yarn up because there were many cuts in the yarn and there was some discolouration that meant not all the pieces were a good colour match, but as is usual with the tremendously forgiving medium of yarn, once the project was done, washed, and blocked it didn't betray its humble origins at all. It was also something of a challenge finding buttons to go with the sweater because turquoise is hard to match and I wanted some cute, characterful buttons, but I think I managed it. I predict that the buttons will be my grandniece's favourite feature of this jacket, like they were the time I made her a teddy bear dress with teddy bear buttons on it. This project subtracted 550 grams from my stash, and now I get to figure out what to do with the remaining 200 grams of this turquoise yarn.

A Tree of Life and a Little Leaf

In late 2015 my friend Lindsie told me she was expecting to have a baby in May 2016. I started planning the standard baby gift set I usually give to close friends and family: a handknitted baby blanket and booties, a sewn stuffed bear or bunny, and a story book. My first step in getting the gift ready was to turn to Ravelry, where I researched baby blanket patterns.

For the blanket pattern, I chose the Baby Tree of Life Throw, designed by Nicky Epstein. It's a free pattern. I asked Lindsie what her nursery colours and theme were, but it turned out she didn't have one. She was keeping her baby preparations as low key and simple as possible, saying (quite rightly) that parents really do decorating for themselves rather than for a baby who's too young to notice or care. She hadn't painted the baby's room but left it the white it was when she and her partner moved into her apartment. Her diaper bag was a backpack that would be useful after the baby no longer wore diapers. She'd bought a changing pad that would go on top of the chest of drawers in the baby's room rather than a changing table, and she had in general kept the baby paraphernalia to a minimum. Since she was knitting the baby a blanket herself, I questioned whether she would even want a second baby blanket, but when I said as much to my mother, who raised eight children (five biological, three foster), she said, "When Lindsie finds out how often everything needs to be washed, she'll realize that two baby blankets are minimal." The blanket plan was therefore on, and I then looked for a bootie pattern to go with it.

I decided on the Leaf Lace Booties, designed by Jacqueline van Dillen. This pattern was published in 60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More, and I used it last year when making a baby gift for my niece's baby girl.

And here's my version of the Tree of Life afghan and the Leaf Lace Booties. I used Patons' Decor yarn in Oceanside, which is a decent quality yarn with some wool content but is still machine washable and dryable as a baby blanket should be. It also comes in beautiful colours. I chose this soft grayish blue because it seemed attractive and yet subtle enough not to clash with anything else the baby might own. I managed to get the yarn for a very reasonable price because I printed several "40% off one item" coupons off Michaels' website and made three trips to the store to get enough skeins. (The things you'll do when money's tight...) The blanket required slightly less than 250 grams of yarn. I goofed up during the tulips section, didn't read the pattern carefully enough, and assumed the "leaf" effect was created after the blanket was finished. I didn't discover this error until the main section of the blanket was done and I was sewing on the leaf border, and I was not going to rip out that much work if I could help it. I found a way to recreate the leaf effect by stitching it on with a darning needle. This really is a lovely pattern and I'd make it again -- but I will take care not to make that mistake again.

A closer look at the Leaf Lace Booties. It turned out that I was just 10 grams short of the yarn I needed to make them once the afghan was done, and I didn't want to have to buy another 100 gram ball, so instead I finished the slipper off with some burgundy-coloured yarn I had on hand. Thus this project, which was to be knit from new yarn, instead resulted in a net stash decrease of -10 grams.