Ignore this if you hate knitting

Believe it or not, I have readers who are not just non-knitters but who have distinct reactions to knitting. Thus, I provide the warning that this blog entry is about knitting. I know, I know. The last thing in the world anyone needs is another knitting blog. But this isn't one. It's a blog on which I happen to be writing about knitting. HUGE distinction. I'm staring at a bag full of Patons cotton yarn in baby pastels. I bought it from Smiley's Yarn a while back because...hell, I don't know. The same reason I buy yarn most of the time - it as a good deal and it seemed that I needed it. I've only got a handful of balls of each color and I'm trying to cobble together an idea for a simple but not cheesy baby blanket for a friend who's due in February. The problem with so many baby blankets is that they're boring. Or cheesy. Or both. Feel my pain.

My family does a gift exchange at Xmas and this year I drew my new stepmother, Marvin. (Technically, her name's Marilyn but for reasons too long to go into, she's Marvin to me.) I was pretty thrilled because she's an elegant sort of gal and the price guideline for gifts is reasonable so I was able to concoct something from the kind of fancy schmancy yarns I don't get to knit with for myself. I used S. Charles Ritratto, a mohair blend with a metallic strand running through it, and a modified version of the Trellis Scarf from the Spring 2006 Interweave Knits. I wish I'd taken a picture of it, since it turned out pretty well, although in that 20-20 vision of hindsight, I would have liked to have made it a bit longer and a bit wider so that it was almost a shawl.

The cool thing was it was my first lace project on which I got to use my lace blocking wires. I ordered up a set from Knit Picks since I'm in love with lace but in hate with the blocking it requires. Instead of using a zillion pins to shape the item, these long sturdy metal wires are inserted along the seam. They'll probably save me some time in the long run but what I like best is getting a uniform, straight side seam instead of jagged marks where individual pins hold the sides in place.

I also ordered some of Knit Picks' Palette yarn in fall-ish browns and oranges to make a fair isle hat. As a handful of little Tibetan girls can testify, I've been playing with simple fair isle details in hats for a while now. It can be a really fun way to spice up otherwise boring knitting projects. Among the many great books I got with my birthday gift certificates was Louisa Harding's Hats Gloves Scarves. Finally, a book with fantastic simple and elegant basics for the aforementioned items all in one place. It's fast becoming one of my favorite knitting books.

Anyhoo, there's a pattern in there for a full-on fair isle hat, featuring top to bottom patterning. I decided to give it a whirl, as you can see from the results. (Please ignore the stray yarn still visible in this glamour shot.) It's not a bad looking hat, but I have a few thoughts.

One, the Palette yarn is kind of scritchy, but what do you want from affordable wool, right? Two, keeping the colors straight is a chore. A big chore. I knit a lot of this in the car on the way to Indy last week and believe me, juggling six different balls of yarn in the car is no easy task. Three, fair isle requires a lot of finishing. I'll need a lot more practice before the back seam doesn't look like a surgical scar and the pattern lines up properly. Four, I feel like this level of color work is something I wanted to try but now that I have, I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to do more. I love color work as details or accents on simpler items and I think that's what I'll stick with.

Let's see...what's on my knitting horizon? I just bought eight more balls of the Louisa Harding angora I used to make my fingerless gloves. (I would photograph the beautiful gloves but I can't FIND them! ACK!) I got it on eBay at a ridiculously low price - I think I paid $4 a ball and it usually retails for $10-11. I've learned the hard way that angora gets loosy-goosey and loses its shape easily and that it felts, as one magazine said, if you look at it wrong. But I reinforced the cuffs of said missing gloves by weaving some elastic thread on the inside and I'm looking into sources for Rainbow elastic thread which comes in a ton of colors and can be carried through the knitting with the angora for extra stretch in a hat or gloves.

And last but not least, I bought my eight-year-old niece Rebecca some learn-to-knit supplies for Christmas and although I didn't pick the yarn all that wisely for a beginner, it was a special thrill to see her whip up a coaster! Wonderfully imperfect, but the ideal project for her. I'll admit, too, that it was cool to see it inspired Jenn, my 19-year-old niece, to pick up the spare set of needles and give it a whirl. I get such a sense of satisfaction out of making something with my hands and it's really neat to plant that seed with others and see if it takes.