Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Garter stitch cowl pattern (sort of)

*scroll down to end if you're more interested in the pattern than the rambling*

I've mentioned before, it's cold out this winter. Colder than usual, and it's only mid-February. Here in the midwest, we know that it will be many, many weeks before it's actually spring out there, despite what lies the calendar may tell. So because I was cold, and on a little break from Etsy orders while I wait for a yarn shipment to arrive, I found myself in the lately unusual position of having a little time on my hands with which I could knit something....for myself!!?!

I saw a simple shawlette/short poncho sort of thing at a friend's house, and knew I wanted something similar, but a little different. Like a cowl, but something I could pull over my shoulders. Like an infinity scarf, but not quite. I also knew that I didn't really want to buy anything new, so it would be cool to use up what I already had. I'd purchased a few different colors of Lion Brand Homespun for a custom order of a newborn cocoon for a photography prop. I like a lot of the Lion Brand yarns, but homespun isn't my favorite. While it's quite soft, it's not plied very tightly so it can get fuzzy and splitty. It's acrylic and polyester, which in addition to the softness makes it quite nice for a baby prop because it's machine washable - for when babies inevitably do what they do - it's just not what I gravitate toward. But anyway, I bought a few different colors because I wasn't sure what the buyer wanted. She chose the lovely gray/white color, and I was too lazy to return the rest. So in a cold daze, I grabbed the unused cream/off-white skein and blindly cast on.

I had poked around on Ravelry, but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. Which is funny, because it's so simple that it's not even really a pattern. Maybe that's why no one has written it yet? Because it's just THAT simple? I wasn't going to either, but the ladies at knitting group said that I should, so here we are. :)

I decided that I'd rather cast on the width and join up the ends to make the loop for the infinity scarf because I didn't actually know how long I'd like it to be. That told me that this might be the time to experiment with a provisional cast on and grafting rather than just doing a mattress stitch. I knew from experimenting on the newborn cocoon that a very simple stitch pattern works best with homespun. I used stockinette for that, but since this was 2 sided, I decided garter would be the way to go. So in the end, I basically mashed these 3 patterns together (1, 2, 3), and made some executive decisions along the way when it became clear that a single skein wasn't going to be long enough.

When I started running out of the cream color, I noticed that the nature of the homespun dying made these wide color bands. I chose to grab the leftover 2/3(ish) skein of the gray colorway and alternate 2 stripes of each color for several rows before switching over to all gray. Initially, I determined this number by guessing about how much of the cream to leave so that I could do the 2x2 striping at the other end of the gray. Then I would have cream section, striped section, gray section, striped section, and it would all look like it was done intentionally. Even though it wasn't and was based on laziness and not really wanting to buy more yarn, since it isn't my favorite and I was using up what I had. Shhhhh. Then I knit the gray section until I had about the same amount left as I had of cream, at which point I started striping again. I ended on a cream stripe, because then I would use the gray to join between the last cream stripe and the beginning cream section. I could have done the grafting with cream as well, but my visual judgement of "equal" amounts left leaned slightly heavy toward gray, so that's what I used. Very scientific.

My initial thought was to put a twist in the scarf before joining to give it a little more interest than a long string of garter stitch. I ended up testing it both twisted and straight as a friend said that it could get a little tight if I chose to double up the scarf with the twist in it. If I was working this from 2 complete skeins, I think I would have done a straight join and worn it doubled. However since I had one partial skein, it's juuuust slightly tight when doubled even when straight, so I opted to twist it and will mainly wear it either looped just once or pulled down to warm my shoulders. And there you have it. A super simple striped cowl, so simple it's a little embarrassing to write a "pattern" for.

Garter Stitch Infinity Cowl

One size
Materials - 2 skeins Lion Brand Homespun, 1 of each color
size 8 needles (I used a circular, knit flat)

Using provisional cast on, cast on 40 stitches in color A

Knit every row in color A until work measures about 24"

Knit 2 rows in color B, then knit 2 rows in color A. Carry strands up one side. Repeat for about 4-5", ending with color A. Cut color A at this point, leaving a long tail to weave in end.

Using color B, knit every row until color B section is about 24"

Knit 2 rows in color A, then knit 2 rows in color B. Carry strands up one side. Repeat for about 4-5", ending with color A. (This is the point where I knit until I was just about out of yarn, while being mindful that I had enough left over to graft the ends together)

You can choose to either twist the scarf once at this point, or simply line the ends up straight. Use kitchener stitch to join the working end back to your provisional cast-on end using color B.

Weave in ends.

Wear. Be warm!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everyone should have a book club

Yesterday was the second Tuesday of the month, so in my world, and the worlds of a dozen or so other ladies in my area, that means it was time for book club. I was thinking about the night as I was getting ready, and it just struck me that it was just a really GOOD night. It wasn't necessarily anything special or different than usual. In fact it was probably much the same, but that I just happened to stop and think about it. It was just...really good, and I think everyone should have something like that.

Our host last night was a new mom, who rather bravely volunteered to host while her little guy was only 6 weeks old. Like 6 week old babies tend to be between the hours of 7-9 (the witching hour for the uninitiated) he was a little fussy. We continued having conversations, large group, small asides, background music playing, baby fussing and then calming, new mama doing a great job doing her thing as well as joining in with the group, and this morning I just felt so lucky to be part of a group like that. Comfortable, accommodating, really smart, great people. Over the years people will sometimes ask how we operate, how we got started, how we keep going. I invite everyone local to come join us if they are interested, and I think most of our group is the same way. Our door is open if you want to hang out, and if not, that's cool too!

We've been meeting for just over 6 years, second Tuesday of the month, from about 7-9, with surprisingly few deviations. Our members have a lot of similarities, but we're rather diverse as well in terms of life stage, marital status, jobs. Membership ebbs and flows as new people are invited, and others leave. There are 12-15 of us on the invite list, and maybe 6-8 attend. No one has perfect attendance and there's certainly no penalty for that. We started out with our 2 founding members - both of whom have moved away now and are missed! - dreaming about one day having free time beyond the grind of thesis preparation. From what I recall, they had lots of plans about what they would do with all of that free time, and starting a book club was one of those things that came to fruition.

(as an honest aside, earlier in my college career a different friend was talking about joining a book club, and I thought it was the most pretentious thing. Maybe some of you reading are thinking the same thing, but I totally GET it now, so bear with me)

Anyway, so those 2 ladies told a few other ladies they were thinking of starting this club, and we all invited a few other friends, and a group was born. At the beginning or end of each year, we each bring a few book suggestions, and we put them all down on a list. The list is both set and isn't - it can be changed if we decide that the next book just isn't speaking to us for whatever reason. We volunteer to host - with a group our size, we end up hosting just once, maybe twice a year. That way it isn't too much of a burden to make a whole bunch of food (homemade soup and salad and frozen apps from Trader Joes are both equally loved - if you want to go gourmet or if you only have time to open packages, both are totally cool) and clean up for guests (no one minds piles of blocks in the corner and there is a standing agreement not to notice rogue dust bunnies). Half the group brings a beverage to share, the other half freeloads. :) Sometimes we divide by last name, sometimes by geography depending on group makeup. Sometimes we have a healthy book discussion if a large proportion of us managed to read, sometimes we have a summary given by the few who did - we play a little fast and loose with the definition of "BOOK" club. I've heard of some groups that are more academic than ours, and that's cool if that's what you're into. I prefer keeping it casual with a nice healthy side of chit chat. We also happen to have a knack for choosing books that later get made into movies, so you can claim those bragging rights of saying, "oh, but the book was sooo much better."

So to me, THAT'S what a book club is about. We started through word of mouth, but in this era of the internet, sites like meetup.com or your local library can be a great place to start if you're new to an area. You could even keep it real and just call it a wine club if you're not so much into reading. But I love it - hanging out with cool, genuinely nice people, expanding my mind when I have time, but not being shamed about it if I don't. I look forward to it every month, especially if I'm going through periods in my life where that might be the only socialization I get for whatever reason. Yeah, we had some awkward silences in the early days when a lot of us were just getting to know one another. I love that we've grown comfortable and grown together and have nights like last night. Yay books! Yay friends! And yay wine!