Block by Block


I may have pushed off most of the things on my to-do list this weekend because a big box of yarn arrived on Saturday and with it I could start a fairly ambitious knitting project.

2 down, 28 mystery blocks to go!

2 down, 28 mystery blocks to go!

As ambitious as yarn bombing a tree? Okay, maybe not, but this feels more of a mountain to me than that project did because I have always preferred knitting small things or at least items that knit up quickly. A blanket does not, generally speaking, knit up anything close to quickly. Even the baby blanket I knit a year or so ago reminded me of the monotony of large shapes and how much I do not enjoy that kind of needlework.

The crab was much more enjoyable to knit than the blanket!

The crab was much more enjoyable to knit than the blanket!

Nor do I enjoy piece-work when it’s the same piece over and over again, so the traditional afghan made up of granny squares never really appealed to me, either. (Granny squares are crochet, of course, and I’m more likely to just keep going around and around to enlarge one than make the 60 or so needed for a modest throw. I tried that once but there was something a tad off as my concentric squares ended up a bit tilted as I went along–interesting effect, but not what I was going for.)

A green and white crocheted throw of concentric squares that tilt a bit with each round

Case in point… the tilted squares would be cool if I knew how to make them on purpose!

What changed my mind? I’m still not 100% sure, but it had to do with one of the many email newsletters I usually toss out but randomly read (otherwise I’d unsub and be done with it, but occasionally I want to know what they contain) and it happened to include a notice about the Cascade Knitterati Knit-a-Long. 30 blocks by different designers released over the course of the year via the Cascade newsletter. It was just starting, and it would yield a pretty decent blanket by the end. So I gave up filling in the no-spend block for that day’s habit tracker and ordered about 24 skeins of yarn.

Could I have knit it with my stash on hand? Perhaps. But I don’t really think I have enough of any one type or weight of yarn to make the project without buying anything at all, much less in colors that would all coordinate, so I might as well start fresh, right? Could I subscribe to the patterns, save them, and do them when I’m not trying to be very budget-conscious? I suppose I could have tried, but a project I don’t start now could take years to eventually get around to, if ever, so there’s a higher chance it’d languish on my hard drive instead of doing some good!

So goes my justification of the yarn purchase.

Now, full disclaimer, I’m not using Cascade 220, instead I’m subbing a similar superwash Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks because, at the time, I thought it would break the bank less. That now remains to be seen as the 220 in Cascade 220 apparently denotes the yardage involved, and the WotA is only half that per skein. Rookie mistake, definitely. That said, the first block took slightly less than 1 skein, so the 24 I have might get me through the bulk of the project. It depends on the patterns. Block 2, for instance, is stranded color work, so that takes up twice the yarn. I do have some spare WotA Superwash in my stash from knitting Todd’s Tardis scarf a few years ago, and while it’s not exactly the same colorway I’m using so far, I think the dark blue could coordinate with the merlot, briar, almond, bamboo, and pampas colors I chose if I use it as an accent or intersperse the blocks just the right way.

Or I could order more. We shall see.

Lessons So Far

Always order more yarn than you think you need. Not only could the yardage be different, but if you decide to switch around some color designations for the given patterns, you might fall short of the designers’ projections. I did not do this. I hope I will not knit to regret it.

I finished the first block a single afternoon, interspersed with a little work here and there–I’d reward myself with some rows after completing a different task.


Block #1, designed by Jacqueline van Dillen

Rows might not be the right word, though, as the first block was knit in the round; a different experience to be sure. The circular cast-on was awesome, though, and I foresee using that again when I do more center-out items since it’s far easier than the cephalopod-like machinations used to cast on and divide stitches on double points otherwise.

My knitting strictly from charts confidence got a bit of boost on this one, as well.

Block #2, designed by Shannon Dunbabin

Block #2, designed by Shannon Dunbabin

I got a little more than halfway through block two by the end of Sunday night (pesky responsibilities kept intruding) and set it aside until last night when I was determined to bliss out with the remaining squirrels and acorns. Knitting stranded color work flat is a pain. There, I’ve said it. I much prefer doing it in the round, but that’s not what the pattern calls for. Such is life, and it’s always good practice to do things that come less naturally, right?

All those ends to weave in, too!

All those ends to weave in, too!

The other thought I had while working on the blocks so far (other than the coolness of having a new blanket by next winter) was that these blocks will need blocking and seaming: some of my least favorite parts of the process. The blocking I’ll probably do in bunches, but I’ll have to hold off seaming until they’re all complete so I can get the best possible arrangement. I’m not sure I can just go with the flow and attach them together as I go.

Now I shall wait semi-patiently to see what block #3 will be!

In Search of Comfort

64 Arts

I have always loved the weight of a big, fluffy comforter on me while I sleep. Even as a teenager, in the heat of a 106-degree summer with no air conditioning, I’d sleep with the lightest nightgown I owned, wrapped in the comforter with an oscillating fan on high pointed straight at me.

For the early parts of my semi-adult life, I had the usual 20-something kit of discount-store specials and whatever someone might have given me and I still had that same comforter from my Mom’s house.

When I married my second husband, he owned his own home and was agreeable to me redecorating, within reason. Color me ecstatic!

Turned out ‘within reason’ meant no changing the furniture, the wall colors or moving any of his stuff.

But I was still in an optimistic mood so I decided I could work within those boundaries.

I had a vision for the bedroom: garden, but not floral. Sage greens and botanicals, and I knew the exact comforter that would be perfect for the room–even though I’d never seen it before.

On our “honeymoon” (another story for another time) took us past an outlet mall on the way home so we popped in for some window shopping. Walking into the Wamsutta outlet I squealed.

There it was, high on a shelf: my comforter.

Wamsutta Garden Comforter

Wamsutta Garden Comforter

I never did get anywhere else with the house in the 3 years we were together. I had plans to update the kitchen, he liked them until I talked about tile. I wanted to replace the knobs on the cabinets. Veto. When we split, I kept the comforter.

Midway through my 4 years of living on my own I decided it was time for a new look. Botanicals were soon to be retired for something else. Something spicy. Something bold. Something red.

Some would say red is the wrong color for the bedroom. In fact, that feng shui research I was doing last week said exactly that–it’s too spicy a color for true rest and relaxation.

Not for me, for me red is a warm color and I’m cold-natured. It’s just the think to keep me toasty warm and cozy. Furthermore, it’s a sensual color fitting for a boudoir, especially when the theme is more Moroccan than red light district.

The only problem was finding that perfect comforter. What lengths did I go to? Department stores, discount stores, outlet stores and mall. Specialty stores were searched and I even went out of state, took a 5-hour drive to the nearest IKEA in the interest of interior decoration.

While that trip did yield a set of sheets and a couple of blankets all in the deep red that I was craving, the comforter options we less than comforting. Still, it was a start and by then it was summer, so the light blanket did the trick while the search continued.

Of course I searched online numerous times until one day, as fall waned, I hit the jackpot on Bless that big red O’s online heart and their $2.95 shipping, too! I’d finally found it. Who cares if it was only available in King and my bed was a double? Not me! I’ve never been fond of covers that didn’t cover the sides of the bed, anyway!

The Red Bedroom

The Red Bedroom

Between Overstock, IKEA (also responsible for the end tables slightly visible in this picture), Bealls outlet (the lamps), Big Lots (the curtain panels–the left one is covering nothing, our new-old home has some funny ideas when it comes to window placement), and Marshalls (the curtain panel that is covering my blond-wood headboard) and a trip to JoAnns for fabric (in my apartment I couldn’t paint, so I draped the walls with panels of gold and burgundy voile; this house we can and do plan to paint the bedroom an antique gold) I got just the room I wanted.

I suppose if there’s a takeaway from all of this it’s

  • a) don’t let anyone tell you a color is wrong for the bedroom
  • b) never give up–you will find the comfort(er) you’re looking for