Mama Knits Crochets and Quilts

Mama Knits Crochets and Quilts

A mom and needle craft blog

Bumpy knitting

Even though I say I don’t mind starting a project over, I really do.  I feel like somehow I’ve gotten ‘behind’.  One thing that helps me is to start a new piece, whatever I need to redo, from any yarn that I have left, before I rip anything apart.  That way I’ll have some progress made before I start pulling out my previous work.  Just a little mind game I play with myself.

So I’ve started the Glenfiddich tunic again, beginning with the back and working the piece flat.  For the whole project, I have 6 skeins of hand-dyed Glenfiddich wool.  Previously, I knit the front and back together, from the bottom up, in the round.  I stopped knitting in the round at the bottom of the armholes, and knit the front and back separately, knitting and purling back and forth.  I got as far as sewing the shoulder seams when I realized that the knitting was uneven, almost looking like there were holes or gaps in the stitches.  This was really apparent in the section I had knit in the round.  This is also the area where I had knit with the first two skeins of yarn, switching from one to the other every round.  I used up two skeins completely, and switched to the next two.  When I decided to start over, I used what was left of the second two skeins to start the back, and used that up before I ripped anything out.  Now that I am knitting with some of the yarn that I pulled out from the previous piece, I am getting that rough looking knitting again.  I am not sure what’s happening.  Is it the yarn?  I’m not 100% sure but I think I should still be using yarn from the second two skeins, which I thought worked well before.  But maybe this is yarn from the first two skeins.  Is it those two skeins of yarn?  Is it something I am doing?  I am just not sure.

The nice thing about have two projects going on is that when one is frustrating you can switch to the other one.  Bring on the temperature blanket.

Blanket number 2

I’m back to thinking about the weather in Pittsburgh.  I’ve pretty much planned my blanket for the temperatures in Golden, CO when we spent a year there, but I still want to do something that shows Pittsburgh temperatures.  So while on-line I see someone else’s really good idea; they documented their baby’s first year with a temperature blanket.  Bingo!

Using historic weather data from for Pittsburgh, I can make a blanket for Evan that starts the day he was born and ends on his first birthday!  This one should definitely be washable, since I’ll put it on his bed now, and hopefully it will last for many many years, so I think I’ll use acrylic.  I don’t have the yarn I ordered for the CO blanket yet, but I know the categories, and what colors I’ve picked, so I can match those; I think I’ll go to JoAnn’s and get this yarn in person.  If I can see it in real life, I can pick different brands.  Then, when they are both done, I can compare the two blankets, and see the similarities and differences for CO and PA.  This is going to be fun.

Golden/Broomfield temperatures

After I decided to document my year in Golden by doing a temperature blanket, I needed to get down to some nitty-gritty (knitty-gritty?) details.  No, not knitty, because I decided that I’m going to crochet.  I don’t want to tie up some knitting needles for however long it will take me to make a whole blanket, and I don’t have a circular that long anyway, so I think crochet will be easier to manage.  That’s one decision.

Then I started thinking about yarn.  I did some weather research to find the range of temperatures typical for Colorado, and checked weather underground for 2013-2014, when we were there.  Turns out the weather data for Golden, CO comes from the Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield.  That’s closer than Denver, and while it might not be exactly the same as what happened in Golden, it should be pretty accurate.  I saw that the lowest low was around 10 below zero, and the highest high was in the 90s.  If I did the below zeros as the first category, then had a category for every ten degrees, up to the 90s, I would have eleven categories and would need eleven colors of yarn.  I decided that I did want to document the whole range, lows and highs, so to do that I decided to crochet half the blanket with low temperatures, and half with high temperatures.  So each row will be split in half with both the low temp and high temp for every day.  The colors will break in the middle.  I think it will be neat.

So, eleven colors of yarn.  I started thinking I wanted wool, or a blend, or washable wool, or maybe a cotton blend…I was all over the place, without thinking 100% acrylic.  Of course, the color choice in acrylic is greater, and it is less expensive, but I started looking on-line at the other choices first.  After a bit of looking, I found Cascade 220 Superwash at  This is washable, 100% wool, worsted weight yarn, and they have 129 shades.  But even with all those choices, I still had trouble picking my colors.  I want them to flow, one to the other, but still be distinct enough to tell them apart.  I also want them to be intuitive, with colder temps being pink, lavender, blue, warming up into greens and yellow, then heating up to orange and red.  I ended up looking at Cascade 220, which is not washable and will felt, so I’ll have to be careful with this blanket (gently hand wash cold only, hang dry).  It’s not as user friendly, but Love Knitting has 163 shades, many of which are heathered, and I found 11 that I think will work.  I ordered one of each, and I hope I like them when I finally see them for real.


Yeah, that Glenfiddich tunic needs to be frogged and re-done.  I was pretty sure when I first steamed it and the holes stayed so visible, but I was not emotionally ready to start ripping (rip it, rip it), but it is time.  Seeing it in a picture is actually worse than seeing it in real life.  The color variations are so obvious, one section to the next.  I know I wouldn’t be happy with it every time I looked at it.  And hopefully I will be wearing it for years and years, so what’s a month or so in lost knitting time?  It’s not really a big deal.  At least I know I really like the color, the size fits, nothing needs to be altered at this point, and the three needle bind off works really well for the shoulder.  With a small amount of effort, I will end up with a sweater I love.  Believe me, there have been sweaters that I did not fix that have been donated away.  When it’s not right, it’s just not right!  This one will be right, eventually.

Temperature time and place

I’ve been doing some research on temperature blankets, and I’m getting pretty excited about actually doing (at least) one.  I think it would be so cool to see how it develops over time, as the days go by and the temperatures and yarns change.  I got inspired when I saw a post on Facebook about it, and it was the New Year, and a perfect time to start, so I started recording the daily temperatures on my calendar, even though I didn’t have yarn yet and wasn’t ready to actually start.  But while the idea really excites me, 2018 will be just any old random year in my life (I think) and making a blanket will be a big project, so I think I’d like it to be from a ‘big’ year, a year when something important actually happened.  So I started thinking about doing a different timeframe.

And guess what?  This is totally doable because there are historic data available on-line!  As long as you don’t want the actual temperature from your backyard, you can look up the high and low temperatures by location and date on-line.  I’ve decided to use weather underground at to mine my temperature data.  (If you just go to weather underground, the historical weather is under the “more” tab).  I put in the zip code for my address, and found that the temperatures for Pittsburgh were recorded at the Allegheny County Airport, which is not far away at all.

Now I needed to pick my ‘big’ year.  So I started thinking about what has happened in my life, and the first thing I thought of has nothing to do with Pittsburgh.  Right before Evan turned two we decided to move to Colorado for a year; I wasn’t working anymore, Evan wasn’t in school yet, and Dennis has a lot of clients out there, so it was the perfect time to go and the perfect place to go to.  We ended up in Golden, outside Denver, and we were there for almost exactly one year, and had an awesome time, so that would be a perfect thing to document!  That is definitely going to be one of my temperature blankets.

Tunic dilemma

OK, so now the tunic is mostly a tunic, well, I guess more of a vest.  It has no sleeves and the neck edge is not finished, but it is at a point that I can try it on for size and see how it looks.

And there is good news and bad news.  First the good news — it fits!  It is a good length, not too tight or too big, the armholes seem to be the right depth, and the neck opening is not as deep as I was afraid it might be.  The pattern is really a big rectangle with no shaping so it could have looked boxy, but it doesn’t.  Plus I really like the color.  This is all good news.

The bad news is that the stitching looks rough, and I don’t know why.  I am using a relatively large needle, a 10, so the individual stitches are on the large side, but I like that with this yarn.  What I don’t like is that there is a bit of uneven-ness, especially in the section that I knit in the round.  Some of the stitches are noticeably larger than others, and it almost looks like holes or small gaps in the knitting.  This is not good news.  Also, the colors in the knit-in-the-round section look diagonal and in the knit-back-and-forth section they are straighter.  Not good news at all.

I did not wash/soak it, but I did block it to size and steam press it from the front to see if the roughness would go away.  The section that I knit flat blocked out nicely but the part that was knit in the round did not.  The ‘holes’ are still there.  Of course the color variations did not change.  Do you see where I am going with this?  I am not happy, and I think I am not going to be happy with this unless I fix it.  And by fix it I mean start over.

I’m not going to jump into anything.  I’ll set this aside for a while and come back in a day or two, just enough time to maybe be more objective (but I think I’m gonna start over…I am that compulsive).


Front and shoulders

Well, I was right; the front worked up pretty quick.  I was working flat, knitting and purling and switching yarns every other row.  When it was time I put the middle section of stitches on a stitch holder and the far side of the front on another holder, and worked each side up, one at a time.  When I was done knitting, I had three holders on the front and three holders on the back.  Each side has live stitches for both shoulders and the center sections.  The front and back shoulders have the same number of stitches, as do the center sections.

I decided to do a three needle bind-off for the shoulders rather than binding off and stitching.  Three needle bind-offs are neat and strong so I like to use them for shoulder seams.  Luckily I have a great assortment of knitting needles, because as the name implies, you need three needles the same size to do it.  I had to do a quick Google search to remind me how to do this stitch.  Unfortunately, I did the search after I just jumped in and started off wrong; I had to undo part of one seam and pick up my stitches so I could start over.  Try not to do this; double check first (I tell myself).

The first thing to keep in mind is that you work the stitches with the right sides of the fabric facing together.  This is what I did wrong the first time.  Once you have your pieces oriented correctly, pick up the live stitches that you will be binding off together.  I always use the same size needle that I used to make the stitches, but I suppose you could go a size smaller if you had to.  I would be sure that the working needle is the same size that was used for knitting, though.

If you are picking up your live stitches with straight needles, make sure you pick them up in the direction that puts the points of the needles facing the direction you need them to be.  If you pick up with short circulars, you can slide the stitches to either end, but I prefer to use straights for this.  So I line up my knitted pieces right sides together, and when I do the bind off, the knitted fabric will be on my left; the stitches that I am binding off will be in my left hand, and the stitches from the back will be on one needle and the stitches from the front will be on another needle.  Both of these needles will be used together as the left hand needle, so they need to end up pointy end on the right.  Then the empty, working needle in the right hand can knit and do the bind off.  At this point it is a lot like a regular bind off, where you knit the first stitch and put it on the right needle, knit the second stitch and put it on the right needle, then pass that first stitch over the second, leaving one stitch on the right.  Continue until everything on the left has been knit and there is one stitch on the right.  Cut the yarn and finish off.  The only difference in the three needle bind off is that when you knit ‘the’ stitch on the left, you knit through the first stitch on both needles, so they get knit together as one.  There are many, better, descriptions of this, and videos too, on-line so look it up, find one that makes sense and try it.  I might not be doing it exactly the way someone else would describe it, but it worked and looks good, so I’m happy.  It’s a good technique to know, and a nice stitch to use when you can.

New project!

In between working on my tunic sweater, I’ve recently become obsessed with, yes, another project.

The push behind my latest obsession is the fact that it is a new year, still really close to the beginning, and I’ve started thinking about making a temperature blanket.  I’ve thought about this before, but a really logical time to start one is January 1st, so that’s why it’s back in my head again.

A temperature blanket or afghan or scarf even, is a year long project that develops as the days go by.  Yarn colors are assigned to different temperatures, and you knit or crochet one row every day based on the temperature that happens that day.  You can choose to do the high temperature, the low temperature, the temperature at noon, whatever; you can get the temps from your backyard thermometer or from the news or internet.  The only ‘rule’ is to be consistent.  As you go through the year, the temperatures will gradually change throughout the seasons, and you will end up with a blanket that changes color based on the weather that you’ve actually lived through.   If you start January 1, which is totally logical but not at all necessary, your project will start in the cooler colors, move through warm in the middle, and shift back to cool.  If you do it daily, in real time, yes it takes a year to finish, but the one row a day would take not much time at all.  It seems very doable.  And very cool.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea, and I’m getting some ideas about what I want to do…


Back, now front

Well, the back is done on the tunic; it was a pretty simple knit-straight-up until it is the right length, with no shaping.  The colors look OK so far so I am going to go ahead and knit the front.  This should go even quicker because part way up, the middle section of stitches get put on a holder and just the two sides get knit to the full length to match the back.  I kept track of how many rows I knit for the back so I can have an exact match for the front.  So far, so good.

Changing to back and forth

So I am at the bottom of the armhole of my Glenfiddich tunic and now need to leave an opening for the sleeve, so that means I get to stop knitting around and around and around forever, and start knitting flat.  Whew!  Half of the stitches will end up being the back and the other half will be the front.  I am starting my split right at the round-marker so that seam-that-is-not-a-seam where I’ve been changing yarns ends up along the side, as if it were a side seam.  This is the best place to hide any not so great stitches along the twist.  I will knit the back first and then the front, so I am putting my front stitches on a stitch holder, and just knitting the back stitches.  I am using the same circular needle that I’ve been using, but will now just go back and forth.  This makes sure that I am using the same needles throughout the whole project.  Needles that are the ‘same’ size can actually vary a little bit, so I try not to change needles within a project if I can help it.  Sometimes I have to go from a circular needle to double points, for example, but I try to avoid that, too.  Now I’ll be knitting on the right side and purling on the back, instead of just knitting, always on the right side.

As I am starting work on the back, I am still switching yarns to blend in any variations between balls of my hand-dyed Copenhagen blue yarn.  Some of the yarn seems a little more blue and some seems a little more gray, so I have been switching every round from gray-ish to blue-ish while I was working in the round.  Now that I am working flat, I realize there is no way to switch colors every row without cutting and reattaching yarns, no matter how many balls I would try to use.  I would end up wanting to knit-blue and purl-gray, and this would always put my yarn at the wrong end of the piece for the next time I wanted to use it.  So now I am knitting a row and purling a row, and then switching yarns, so I am doing two rows instead of one.  I hope it doesn’t make a visible difference.  To have been entirely consistent, I should have been working two rounds before switching for the main body of the sweater.  Oh, my.  I guess I will knit at least the back to see how it looks.