Monkey see monkey do

What is it that attracts us to a particular knitting project? That makes a project trend in the top 20 on Ravelry, or has thousands of favourites and just as many folks who have not only added it to their queue but actually knit the project?

I'm not talking just about adding a project to our favourites because we like it, or think it's cute, or it might be flattering on us. But that feeling that grabs us until it is overwhelming and there's nothing we can do but cast on and work our way through to completion.

Or is that just me? Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I feel like that with every single project I knit. But there are some projects that definitely push the envelope, challenge me, and mean more to me as a result. 

Like my latest finish. I know you're only here for the photos so let's just get to it, shall we?

Pattern:  Sleepy Monkey Blanket  by Mary Ann Stephens Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards   Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Pattern: Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards

Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Most of these photos were taken around Carnaby Street earlier this week. I love the cobblestones and brightly painted buildings and the quiet expectation in the air as the street was slowly coming to life before the shops were due to open.

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

I first saw the Sleepy Monkey Blanket at a book reading by the Yarn Harlot and was captivated by the monkeys and the colourwork - something I hadn't really done a lot of up until then although I'd learned the basics with a Fiddleheads Mittens class (really must finish those!).

After obsessing over finding the pattern,  stalking projects on Ravelry until I was pretty sure I'd found the knitter of the blanket and her colour combo, and then reading the pattern instructions, I recognised that this was going to be an opportunity to learn a few new skills: stranded colourwork, and steeks. (Which were no big deal, btw. Glenna C does an excellent class at The Purple Purl.).

It's kind of funny, but I've come to realise that the projects where I learn something new, that are crazy and challenging and push me as a knitter are the ones that I enjoy the most. There's so much to learn as a knitter and I constantly feel like I'm just scratching the surface.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

The details on this project are fantastic. Designer Mary Ann Stephens is clearly a genius (with patience bordering on masochism) for the amount of planning and thought that has gone into the construction of this blanket. The front and back panels are worked separately and then joined for the border. Not only is this practical for keeping little fingers and toes from getting tangled in the colourwork floats, but it adds more cushiness and warmth to the blanket. Ditto for the border, although with each side picked up and knit separately before joining both sides again and finishing with the garter ridge outer border, it did become a bit of a marathon knitting at the end.

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Now it's time to pack it up, get it in the mail, and hope it makes it across the pond in time for the baby shower. While I'm doing that I'll be thinking about what new challenges I can take on next. More colourwork? Cables? I'm open to suggestions!

Something about steeks

One of the things I like most about knitting is that on every project there is always something different to do, a new technique to learn or practice. I'm excited when I'm challenged and a lot of the thrill of knitting for me comes from learning something new and just figuring things out. It's also one of the reasons I enjoy taking classes so much. It's a safe place to ask all the silly questions and try things that you know if you keep asking the mavens at the local knit night they're going to get a little annoyed that they aren't getting any of their own knitting done!

Case in point: steeks.

Steeks are, for lack of a better description, a knitting shortcut. But not just any knitting shortcut - a shortcut that involves CUTTING THE YARN of something that you've just knit. Ack! They are particularly common when one is knitting stranded colourwork, and since that's a technique that I'd like to do more of, and I'm knitting something in colourwork right now, I thought it couldn't hurt to take a class so that I'm ready for the finishing when that day arrives.

The lovely GlennaC taught a class this weekend at my fave LYS. Complete with some "restorative" dark chocolate to help us take the edge off that cutting. Here's what we learned:

Technique 1: Just start cutting (make sure you're using 100% wool - and NOT superwash!)

Just keep cutting, just keep cutting... Those long lines of the same colour stitches are the steek. In wool, they help reinforce the edge that's cut so that it doesn't unravel.

There, that wasn't so bad. On yarn other than 100% wool, such as superwash wool or yarn of other fibres, you use a sewing machine to stitch down the steeks and reinforce them FIRST, before cutting.

Another technique (again with 100% wool only) is to crochet the edge of where you are going to be cutting. Looks great in a contrasting colour of yarn - especially if the steek has a chance of being seeing, like the inside edge of a cardigan button band. This method is a little more labour intensive though, if you're not a speedy crocheter (I'm definitely not!).

No sweat! Now I'm knitting like the wind on a super secret project just so I can get to the cutting part! Bring it on!