My Gartergantuan

I’m excited to show you this. Gartergantuan. On my queen-sized bed. The individual squares are 75% inspired by Donna Druchunas’s super bulky weight freebie pattern “Garter Stitch Pet Shelter Blanket.” Here’s a look at her design. I’ve decided that my modifications are enough to call Gargantuan my own design. Yarn weight is different. Stitch count is different.The size of an individual 4-section square is different. I changed the final quarter of each square and eliminated the need to sew the seam. I bordered the piece. And instead of being cat bed basket sized, mine is decidedly gargantuan.

First, some stats. Gargantuan is about 8 and one-half feet square. Yes 102 inches square. I used 63 skeins of Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted. Lamb’s Pride is a non-machine washable 85% wool 15% mohair. 63 skeins works out to about 3.5 skeins of yarn for each one of the 16 big squares. Gargantuan used 11,970 yards of yarn.  7119 grams. I needed about 8 skeins of Lamb’s Pride to join the squares and knit the border. Possibly, I am a tad crazy. It sort of crept up on me. I did, however, find skeins on sale whenever possible since the current price of $14.60/skein is fairly steep and I obviously wasn’t picky about what colors I used.

I wanted a blanket that would be sort of a bedspread. I wanted it to hang to the floor on the sides.

And be long enough to tuck under and over the pillows.

I don’t have pets or children anymore. And I’m basically a tidy person. So–at least for now–being unable to wash this blanket isn’t a deal-killer for me. But I do think it would be for just about everyone else. Now, more about how this happened.

Initially, I found I really loved playing with colors. And I know from when I did have cats, that Hoover and J. Eddie loved to roll around on Lamb’s Pride Worsted. I knit 8 of the 4-section squares, bordered them, and gave them to a number of my relatives and friends who live with cats. The reviews were excellent.

I loved making these squares. But I kind of ran out of cats in my inner circle. And with how much yarn I needed for each I didn’t want to sell them (as some suggested). I figured people wouldn’t even pay what the yarn was costing me. Besides, I’ve never wanted to monetize my knitting passion. I’d rather give it away than sell it.

Some suggested I donate my extra squares to a pet shelter. But, quite sensibly, shelters don’t want wool bed or cage liners.

I just kept knitting them.

And knitting them.

Long after I ran out of cats.

Here’s how I knitted Gargantuan. Square by square. I cast on 48 stitches and worked flat on US size 8 needles. 24″ circulars worked best for me. To adjust the size of what you end up with just change the number of stitches you cast on. As you look at the diamond shape, the first quarter is the right side of the diamond–the one with alternating garter stitch ridges. That’s 2 rows of one color followed by 2 of the other. Just carry the yarn you aren’t using up the side. I knit 48 garter ridges (96 rows) and that gave me pretty close to a perfect square shape.  I counted my cast-on as a half-ridge. Then I bound off.


The next section is the wide stripes. This is where you add in a 3rd color. Pick up and knit 48 stitches on the left edge of the first square, looking at the square from the public side. Always pick up stitches looking at the public side. Knit 16 garter ridges (32 rows) of one color, followed by 16 garter ridges of another color, followed by 16 garter ridges of another color.

The next section is the alternating stripes pattern again. Pick up 48 stitches on the left edge of the broader-striped section 2.

In Druchunas’s shelter blanket, the final section is striped, but not mitered. So her patterning runs “straight” again. In my version, the last quarter of the alternating-colors square is mitered and the center decrease is raised. In the original, the final seam in the square needs to be sewn together. In my version there’s no sewing.

For this last quarter of the square, pick up (and knit) 48 stitches on the two remaining edges of the already-knit sections, plus one extra stitch in the center where the two sections meet. Set that center stitch off by putting a stitch marker on each side of it. Count the pick-up row as Row 1. Row 2, knit. Then every right-side row: knit to within 2 stitches of the center marker, knit 2 together, slip the marker, then knit the next 2 together using this technique: reverse the stitch after the marker and then knit 2 together through the back loops (including the flipped stitch and the next one). Knit the remainder of the row. Decrease this way either side of the marker on every right side row. Knit every wrong side row. When you have only 2 stitches remaining, knit them together.

Here’s how I worked the border on each of the individual squares. Sometimes I used one color. Other times I worked some stripes. Just change colors, if you’re going to, at the round change. You will now be working in the round, not flat.

Pick up and knit 96 stitches on each side, plus 1 stitch at each corner. Mark the corner stitch with a marker on each side. Put a visual cue, such as a different color stitch marker, to signal the round change. Purl the next round. On each right side round until you decide your border is wide enough, knit in the front and the back of each stitch on either side of the marked corner stitch. Alternate between the purl round and the increase-at-the-corner round to create mitered corners. Bind off when you’re satisfied with the width of the border. I worked 4 garter ridges and then bound off in knit on the right side.

In a few squares I ran out of yarn before I finished a section. Sometimes I just changed the colors on purpose. The squares look really nice even without rigidly adhering to a strict color plan.

I knit 16 squares. I could have decided on a different number. At some point there comes a time to stop and attach the squares to create a blanket. I could have “simply” slip-stitched the squares together. But for me slip-stitching is never “simply.” Mine tend to turn out messy. There’s also always the question of what yarn to stitch with. Definitely not Lamb’s Pride because a few swipes through the blanket and the yarn will snap.  Maybe you’ll decide to “just” use mattress stitch. But for me, it’s never “just.” Not on blanket squares anyway. Maybe I don’t mattress close enough to the edge of the knitting because I always get a major strip of over-firm lines in the blanket seams. They don’t feel very nice against skin. And they fall much more definitely than what I want for a blanket.

So I used a 3-needle bind-off technique to first attach 4 squares into a 4-square strip. And then to attach each of the 4 strips to one another. During this phase of the knit, it was back to knitting flat.

Before starting in on joining, I needed to decide what square would go where. I didn’t want 2 squares of similar colors next to one another. I wanted bright and dark squares arranged pleasingly. I cleared a space on the great room floor and laid out the squares in a bunch of ways. When I had what looked pretty good to my eye, I photographed the squares to see if the camera disagreed. This is pretty close to the final arrangement. (I later made a few changes on the fly.)

I chose a color of Lamb’s Pride for the garter stitch joins that hadn’t yet appeared in my blanket: gray. I picked up 105 stitches on the bottom edge of a square. I came up with that number because I had 96 stitches in an edge plus the number of stitches in my garter border. I knit 4 garter ridges, ending after a right side row. I left the stitches “live” on my needle. With another needle, I did the same on the top of the square to be joined. I was careful to align the squares so that the mitered section appeared in the same position throughout. With the right sides of each square facing each other, I worked a 3-needle bind-off. With a 3rd needle, knit through the first stitch on the front needle and the first stitch on the back needle. Knit through the next stitch on both needles. Then pass the first stitch over the just-knit stitch. Do this until all the stitches are bound off.

To attach one strip to the next I picked up 103 stitches along the edge of each square and 8 stitches in each gray (joining) section across the length of each of the 4 joined-together squares in the strip. Then I knit 4 garter ridges (7 rows). I did the same on the strip I wanted the 1st strip to be adjacent to. Then, with wrong sides facing in, I worked a 3-needle bind-off.

After all the strips were joined this way, it was time for a blanket border. I picked up stitches along one edge, knit 3 garter ridges and bound off looking at the right side. Next, I picked up stitches along the opposite edge and worked the same border. On the 3rd side, I picked up stitches along the entire edge, including picking up stitches along the edge of the already-knit borders. Same for the final edge as for the 3rd one.

It was pretty unwieldy at the end. Not only because of the length of the rows, but because of the weight of the blanket. I worked resting my knitting on the dining room table. This amount of Lamb’s Prides weighs nearly…nearly…16 pounds! Oh lordy, I’ve knit myself one of those very trendy weighted blankets.

I’m sleeping under Gargantuan these days now that the weather’s cooled here. It’s a really good thing. Maybe when I have to wash it I’ll decide to unravel it back to its cat blanket origins. By then, friends and family will be needing replacements for their old ones. It will come full circle back to the cats.

Happy Halloween

My grandchildren have collected quite a few in-house nicknames for themselves. One of the sweet ones for my granddaughter is a fairly common one: Pumpkin. Maybe it derives from a toddler-era pumpkin Halloween costume that once came down to her to ankles. Many years later it’s still occasionally worn when only a silly shirt will do.

As relayed through her mom, my granddaughter wondered if I could knit her a pumpkin. Can do. Currently there are 30 knitted pumpkin patterns on Ravelry. Sixteen of them are free. I decided to knit the free pumpkin pattern with the most projects: 01-1170 The Patch. It’s, drum roll please, a DROPS pattern.

I’ve never knit a DROPS pattern. I’ve heard, and seen myself, that they are–let’s see–they are…succinct. Many of them are super interesting and thousands of them are free.

This pattern was very accessible, though personally I’ve never seen charted-out, knit-flat, short rows. Once you get the hang of the chart and the rhythm of the turning, it’s not a problem. In case you want to give this pumpkin a try, on Row 3, the row with the gobs of yarn-overs, you need 16 yarn-overs. So I interpreted the chart as directing a knitter to knit the first two stitches. And when the directions said to “twist” the yarn-over on the row following, I knit into the back of the yarn-over.

On the stem, once I got down to 6 stitches, knitting all the stitches “from the right side” wasn’t clicking with me until I realized I was supposed to knit an attached I-cord.  I switched to double-pointed needles and worked a 6-stitch I-Cord.

I used Knit Picks Dishie for my pumpkin. It’s a fun pattern, with almost no stitching up. It would make quite a Halloween centerpiece. I believe mine’s being used as an indoor football though.

Next up, a new shawl that reminds me of Halloween including because of the colors I chose: Lisa Mutch’s Coax.

Beyond the colors, my version has a bit of a bat-vibe going. Maybe even a spidey-web feel.

This was an easy soothing knit. I used Classic Elite Yuri. Yuri was discontinued even before Classic Elite died. And, for some reason, the 4 skeins I bought and knit into multiple projects before this one just refused to be used up. Coax about did it though.

Yuri must be a lighter weight fingering than the fingering weight Mutch used. I wasn’t able to get gauge. I decided to knit my shawl on the largest needles that produced a decent fabric. That turned out to be a size 7 US. I used 100 yards less than what the pattern called for. And still my shawl has a 59-inch wingspan measured across the top edge and it’s 27 inches deep. That’s after a fairly aggressive blocking. The pattern calls for a shawl that’s 66 inches in wingspan and 32 inches deep. I’m completely satisfied.

This will only make sense if you decide to knit Coax, but in section seven I changed to Color B for the first set of rows 3 and 4 even though the pattern doesn’t say to do that. I looked at the pattern photos closely and don’t see a divider of 4 rows of Color A at that point.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for: more dishcloths!

“Creepy, crawly, creepy, crawly, creepy creepy…”. This is Amy Marie Vold’s Along Came a Spider. Just the thing to send along to your local arachnophobe who’s decided they want to try exposure therapy. I shouldn’t joke. It’s a real thing afflicting 3-15% of the population and is more likely to occur in women than in men.

I knit my pair of spideys in Knit Picks Dishie, using the Conch and Mulberry colors.

I hope your Trick or Treaters, or in my rural area your Trunk or Treaters, come in droves this year. And I also hope that you haven’t had to make a special trip to the ATM to fund the kids’ treats in this inflationary year.

Humble house stuff

If you visit this blog more often than every few months chances are you’ll see that I frequently knit dishcloths. Yep. I like to knit one of the most often poke-funable knits out there: dishcloths. Maybe second only to toilet paper roll covers. But those are more often crocheted. For me dishcloths are a ton ‘o fun. Quick gratification. And I have people around me who love to receive these things. Plus we use them a lot in our kitchen.

You’re probably wondering about these humble houses. They’re a new pattern from Amy Marie Vold: Cape Cottage. This slip-stitch (mosaic) pattern is available as one pattern download. But it’s also included as one of the six patterns in her New England Village ebook.

I knit my Cape Cods in Knit Picks Dishie. Dishie isn’t as rustic a yarn as Lily’s Sugar ‘n Cream, the dishcloth yarn that’s many knitters’ first choice. But I like its slightly more refined appearance.

And, just for the fun of it, I often knit these mosaic cloths in pairs, switching out the main and contrasting color.

Speaking of colors, I like to keep a good supply of Dishie colors in my stash.

I can admittedly go a tad overboard. I buy only the Dishie sales and make my yarn bucks stretch. It’s good stuff put up in 100 gram balls.

This Jalepeno/Creme Brulee Dishie creation is another in Vold’s New England Village Ebook: Cozy Saltbox. It’s a quick fun knit and you end up with something useful.

What New England village would be complete without an Old School?

Now, for a spelling rant. I know that extra e’s are often used for…for…for some reason. The name of this pattern is actually “Olde” with a superfluous Middle English “e.” I think it’s supposed to flag something that’s quaint. Comfortably old-fashioned as in Ye Olde Cheese Shoppe. It mostly makes my inner editor curdle though.

Olde School Dishcloth is a wonderful, rhythmic knit. I used Queensland Collection’s Coastal Cotton. My sense of it is it’s a tad beefier than Dishie but a tad less rustic as compared to Sugar ‘n Cream.

I’ve stocked a nice selection of Coastal Cotton too.

Here’s another fun set, knit in Coastal Cotton:

I can’t resist calling this pair my Knittany Lions because their muzzles make them look like a Nittany Lion. Yes, the Penn State team mascot. But also the mountain lion that apparently once lived on Pennsylvania’s Mount Nittany. Anyway, the pattern’s name is Tame the Dishes. That works.

Next up is a set of dishcloths, freebies, designed by Joan Janes. I knit her trio of cloths, Three Dishcloths, in Coastal Cotton.

Janes designed the patterns to use only one skein of Sugar ‘n Cream. I prefer less dainty sized cloths than a 30-stitch cast-on will produce, as in the Waffle pattern in the foreground. That pattern works with any multiple of 4, plus 2. So I cast on 42 and ended up with about a 7 inch square, using only 24 grams of yarn. The Garter Basketweave pattern in the middle works with a multiple of 4, plus 3. I cast on 43 and ended up with a cloth about 7.5 inches square. That one took 32 grams of yarn. The Ridge & Rib pattern in the back works with an odd number of stitches. I cast on 37 and 26 grams left me with a square of about 7 inches.

Sometimes a dishcloth knitter wants a basically mindless pattern. Janes’s trio of cloths is great for such times.

Louise Sarazzin’s Sunflower Basket is not challenging but it’s also not mindless. Goldilocks might say it’s “just right.”

That’s Dishie on the left in Creme Brulee and Coastal Cotton on the right in Goldenrod.

Until working this pattern I’d never worked the vertical wrap stitch that appears throughout the flower basket. It’s easy. On a wrong-side row you work a yarn over, slip one stitch purlwise with yarn in the back, knit one across the length of the basket. You’re creating an extra stitch with each yarn over. Then, in the next row, once you get to the basket, you knit 2 together through the back loops to return to the proper stitch count. Easy peasy.

If you’re bobble allergic this cloth could be the cure because there are quite a few bobbles. Rx: Knit 30 teeny 3-row bobbles and get plenty of rest.

Peapod, the kayak

This likely qualifies as my most unusual ask: “Grandma, can you knit a kayak?” My granddaughter explained that her beloved small stuffed wolverine (both her parents are University of Michigan grads) needed a kayak. I didn’t ask why. If your wolverine needs a kayak, it just needs one.

I set to pondering how to knit a kayak. First step, search on Ravelry to see if anyone has released a pattern for a knitted kayak. No. Knitted canoe. No. Knitted boat. Yes, but none that looked promising. Next I looked for patterns of properly shaped fruits or veggies. In Ravelry’s “advanced search” feature you can filter for “food” within the “toys & hobbies” category. 864 knitted items showed up in the search, including some that got close to the shape I needed. Chili peppers and carrots. Not quite. But maybe I could knit the narrow section at both ends instead of just one. Roasted Turkey Leg might work if I didn’t plump up the leg so much.  Bananas. Getting closer.

And then I found Amanda Berry’s  Pea Pod. It’s part of her free series of Vegetable Box patterns.  24 veggies designed for DK weight. Super cute and super generous of her to release the patterns without any charge. Pea Pod pattern in hand, I could set to knitting. No need for the peas.

I used Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride worsted for the kayak.

I knit 2 peapods in this beefy worsted yarn–one on needle size 7 US and one on size 6. I figured I’d stiffen the kayak by inserting the smaller one into the larger. I followed Barry’s pattern through Row 12, which took the stitch count to 15. I continued the same centered increases until I reached 33 stitches. For the middle section where there are no increases, I knit 36 rows instead of 18. After that, I knit two centered decreases on each right side row until I got down to 5 stitches and then I bound off. I didn’t work the rows of stockinette at the very end because kayaks in my world are not as pointy as peapods.

I wet-blocked both pieces.

Sewing up was easy. I sewed the larger piece together into a kayak shape by knitting part way down from each end. I left a center cockpit large enough so that the wolverine has room for his feet without getting his long claws stuck. Then I sewed the smaller piece together the same way–slipping the smaller one into the larger one to give the kayak more firmness. It wasn’t firm enough so I added in a bit of polyfill between the layers. Then I just stitched the two kayak shells together.

We are all super diligent about wearing personal flotation devices in our kayaks. I couldn’t let Wolverine set a bad example.

I adapted Meg Swansen’s Baby Bear Ribwarmer pattern for use as a PFD/life jacket. I used Queensland Collection’s Coastal Cotton, a worsted weight. I knit the top ribwarmer on US size 5 needles and followed Swanson’s pattern exactly. I figured it would be too large for Wolverine (and for my Lambie). But I wasn’t sure how to adapt it. In my smaller version, I knit very tightly on size 2.5 US needles. And I knit fewer garter ridges on the back and sides.

A perfect fit!

Obviously Wolverine can’t kayak without a paddle. I knit a length of I-cord and then stuffed a plastic straw inside.

At first I tried to tie white guitar picks to the ends of the shaft for the paddle blades. All that did was ruin two perfectly good guitar picks. I ended up knitting two leaf shapes, on double point needles, and sewed them to each end of the shaft. And that’s just a short crochet chain for the carry straps.

My grandkids live many states away from me. Covid prevented us from visiting in Michigan for way too long. Peapod the Kayak was ready and waiting on my granddaughter’s camp bed when she arrived.

This grandmother gig is so much fun!

Cowling

This is a major knitting stutter for me. I’ve knit it in multiples, this one being my third. It’s Joji Locatelli’s Bobble Cowl. She is of the view that it’s “a perfect way to use up a single skein of yarn.” I agree that it’s pretty close to perfect. I knit this one in Kokon Yarn Bleu Fingering Weight. It’s put up in 437 yard 100 gram skeins. I worked 12 repeats of the 48 row pattern and used up about 360 yards. I’m confident I could have knitted one more repeat. But I felt the length was good at 12.

Obviously, the pattern is mostly a matter of short rows. That’s an easy skill to master. Still, especially at the start of the pattern, I usually need a bit of help recognizing the correct spot to turn. When working the wraps & turns in the first half of the pattern repeat, when the pattern says work to “6 stitches before,” I worked until the 7th stitch from the wrapped stitch gap. I slipped that 7th stitch to the right hand needle and moved the yarn forward. I turned and that created the wrapped stitch. This count means that the stitches will bunch in 6-stitch groups. That works out so that you end the wrap-and-turn sequences in the first half of the pattern repeat with 3 stitches left, the 3rd one being wrapped. That’s the same point where the sequence ends in the second half of the pattern repeat.

Here’s another look at my Kokon Bleu version.

I decided to knit up a gifted skein of Yarn Snob’s A Good Fingering in this same pattern. This is their Holiday Flower Power colorway. Again, for my 4th Bobble Cowl, I worked 12 repeats.

If you’ve wondered, Locatelli’s pattern sensibly doesn’t call for knitting into the wraps as you pass them in any subsequent rows. In garter stitch the wraps don’t detract from the pattern.

The pattern begins with a provisional cast-on so that you’ll have live stitches at the ready to join with your last row of stitches. I use Lucy Neatby’s easy crochet cast-on. It unravels perfectly and easily because all the stitches in the first row are knit stitches. Instead of working Kitchener grafting, I work a 3-needle bind-off. That’s because I sometimes have trouble keeping an even tension while grafting garter stitch. I don’t mind the resultant seam on the inside of the cowl. But working Kitchener at the end will make for a more elegant look. And if you’re knitting for a non-knitter, there’s a more than 50% chance they’ll be wearing the cowl inside out. So if you can manage the graft at least you won’t have the added aggravation of seeing the 3-needle bind-off seam dangling under their chin.

The stitch count stays at 60 throughout the pattern. If you find that you have 2 extra stitches, it might be that you forgot to bind off two stitches at the end of the bobble. Ahem. I’m guessing that you know how I know that.

The Bobble Cowl is big favorite of mine.

Next up is Loop Knallerbse, by Petra Peinze. Stop laughing. It’s not a cowl for a baby giraffe.

Isn’t it cool in a very warm kind of way? I knit mine in Queensland Collection Perth using the Golden Wattle colorway. For some, this sock yarn won’t feel properly next-to-the-neck soft. But I’m not sensitive to that. So it’s a little prickly. So am I sometimes. It suits me well.

This Ravelry freebie is definitely worth your time. It’s so long that you can even pull it up over your head as a snood. Because snoods don’t only have to be mesh bags holding hair at the back of a person’s head. Loop Knallerbse qualifies as a “wide ring of knitted material worn as a hood or a scarf.” New Oxford American Dictionary. I just love that word. Snood. Snood. Snood.