Saturday, September 04, 2010

Detour from the Sock Tour for a Big Ta-Da

Once upon a time there was a book called Mason-Dixon Knitting. I bought this book on impulse in 2005, when I was pregnant with my daughter. It called to me across a crowded bookstore and said, "Take Up Thy Needles, We Promise It Won't Hurt This Time."

And Lo, it was Correct.

Since then, I've been a huge fan of the Shayne and Gardiner oeuvre, and their smart, well-written books and blog have also led me to other fantastic knitting godmothers, like Ms Righetti, Ms. Zimmermann, and Ms. Starmore.

Funny thing, though, I haven't knit many of their patterns. I've done baby kimonos and ballband dishcloths, and that's it. Until--

The Log Cabin.

Log Cabining, as Kay calls it, is less a pattern and more a lifestyle. It's zen knitting at its best; knit back and forth, make stripes wider or thinner, follow your cabin-y bliss. (Those Moderne Baby Blankets that some people seem to make by the truckload are the love child of Log Cabin and Mondrian.)

Here is mine--over a year in the making (non-monogamous, of course), many many shades of worsted wool on size 8 needles, 9-ridge garter stripes, around and around and around until I felt done.

(National Geographic for scale. The seemingly-semi-annual King Tut issue. Which was actually very interesting but made me laugh when I saw the cover. Circulation down much?)

I started this project a year ago June and worked on it on and off until a week or so ago. I wish my photos did the colors more justice--i'll have to try again--because they are just every shade of lovely in my life. Peacock, olive, royal purple, leaf, denim, charcoal, black and more on the cool side; flame, tangerine, spice, traffic cone, mustard, burgundy, sunshine, and toast on the warm side. Some from stash, some left over from patterns, some from the rest of my Aunt Iva yarn, some purchased just because I couldn't resist. Most solid, some heathered, one marled, one tweed. Cascade 220, nameless worsted wool, Paton's classic, and even some leftover Dream in Color Classy and Artyarns Supermerino.

I love the way the colors play with and off of each other. Combinations I never would have expected to love ended up giving me happy little fits of infatuation: olive and peacock; blue-green and denim blue; sunshine yellow and almost-purple, burgundy and spice.

The knitting in this sucker is so straightforward it's almost like breathing, but there were a few technique references that helped me make it the best blanket it could be.

First off, I had trouble picking up stitches along the sides and tops of the garter stripes, and the first few strips had yucky ridges running along the back. I knew from discussion on the Mason-Dixon KAL that some knitters were just leaving their stitches live on holders, but I didn't want to deal with huge long pieces of waste yarn or tons of holders, especially because I wanted this to be pretty good-sized; plus, I felt like the bound-off strips would give more structure and stability, make it feel more quilt-like.

Fate stepped in just a few weeks after I started the project when the Yarn Harlot posted here about her method for picking up in garter stitch; one outstanding tutorial later I was off and running with a blanket where I like the back almost as much as the front.

So life went on well for a year or so, and then I came to the border, running into the challenge of a garter stitch border in-the-round. Why break that streak of all that lovely knit stitch with a bunch of purling???

Again, with the fate. Fleegle's tutorial for No-Purl Garter In the Round proved just the thing.

The border was a bit dicey with such a big blanket -- it didn't fit comfortably on even my longest circs, so I ended up with splitting the live stitches between two 40" circs around and then using a third 40" as the working needle, kind of like REALLY BIG DPNs.

The only thing I'd do differently if I did the border again would be to use YO increases (as in Fleegle's tutorial) rather than the raised increases I used--with black yarn I had a hard time seeing and marking the increase lines clearly and so two of my corners are kind of messed up. (In the sort of no-one-will-notice-but-me-but-it-still-bugs-me way.)

After I used up TWO ENTIRE balls of Patons Classic Wool for the border (12 ridges) it was time to bind off. what to use, what to use. Garter stitch is so flexible and stretchy, I hated to do a traditional bindoff, which is so, um, binding. I thought about a sewn bindoff but then got hives about the huge piece of yarn I would need to use for the sewing part. Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off was a contender, because I've been loving it so much for toe-up socks, but it didn't have the gravitas I envisioned.

Enter another tried-and-true Mason-Dixon staple: applied i-cord.

If you read Kay and Ann's blog you know they harbor an abiding love of i-cord and all things Elizabeth Zimmermann. Kay, in fact, had written a post about how to do a contrasting applied i-cord without any fancy manuevers or extra knitting to hide the "color blip." (Read it from her: it has pictures. I can vouch for the effectiveness.) The only thing I did differently than Kay is mine is only a 3-stitch i-cord.

At each corner, I knit one round of "free" i-cord before and after the corner stitch, which gave it a little ease. I think if I wanted the corners squarer, I could have done 2 rows. I didn't care.

So what did I end up with? A cushy, squishy, oh-so-warm blanket...reversible because the pick-up seams are hardly noticeable (and actually kind of pretty)...with a flexible, vivid red edging that echoes the center square and ties it all together.

We all love it.


Stephanie said...

You're more than right about it being a lifestyle, rather than a project. That has the ring of truth about it that can only come from having lived that much garter stitch. Beautiful blanket.

Katie said...

So pretty! I absolutely love those colors. Great work!