Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Canine Compulsions

I've always been more of a cat person. I think it's because they're cool, confident, aloof, independent... just like me.



Well anyway, I quite accidentally met a chihuahua mix last Friday at a shelter (we were looking for a dog for my mother-in-law, not for us), and it became clear that my self-identification as a cat person was swiftly becoming less of a scientific theory and more of a loose construct. Before I knew it, our family had grown by one teeny dog named Harvey. 

Those eyes! They melted me into a giant puddle of dog-loving goo! What can I say?

A little research (and observing Harvey firsthand) told me that chihuahuas, and other teeny doggies, are better suited for warm climates because they don't have much in the way of protective fatty layers. Harvey is especially diminutive, so with the delightful 30 degree "spring" weather we're still having, sweaters are an outdoor necessity. We have some commercially knit dog sweaters, but let's face it- being a knitter pretty much spoils you forever for commercially knit stuff. I'm convinced that what Harvey needs is some custom-knit sweaters- stat! 

(I should mention here that yes, we already have a dog- Katie, Lynn's nine year old Jack Russel Terrier. And yes, I have always planned on knitting her a sweater. Lest you think I am showing doggy favoritism.... well, how can I put this delicately... Katie does not lack for a protective fatty layer. I didn't have such a sense of urgency about it.)

Even if you aren't a dog person, I've become convinced over the last few days that there isn't really anything more entertaining on the internet than looking at pictures of dogs in sweaters. I may have expressed this feeling to my wife. She may have given me a look that said, "Holly, please don't say that to anyone else." But here I am, telling the internet anyway. Quick, look at these sweater and then come back and tell me I'm wrong. JUST TRY.

1) The Little Black Dress with Pearls made me fervently wish I had more gala events to take my dogs to. The pearls just slay me. Check out this dignified Dachshund!. Classy!

2) Drops 102-43 Knitted Dogcoat and the Biscuits & Bones Dog Coats both have a traditional Aran feel, without having the commitment of knitting an actual enormous Aran sweater. Unless you want to make it for a Great Dane or something, in which case I have no help for you.

3) Wurstwarmer was specifically designed with Dachshunds in mind, but I think it would work for other longish, barrel-chested dogs (including Katie.) The pattern seems thoughtfully written. Speaking of Pamela Wynne, have you seen her Willie sweater- not a sweater for dogs, but a sweater for kids with a dog on it? Awwww. All proceeds from Wurstwarmer go to a dog rescue in Michigan- sweet!

4) From the Knitty archives, here's Penny, a ribbed sweater for little dogs. Ribbing could be a big help with a variety of fitting issues. I wouldn't mind having one just like this. Those stripes are so sporty! The Dandy Dog Coats are another ribbed option, with more size options and stitch pattern variations.

5) There are several simple-ish, measure-your-dog and knit-to-fit type patterns, but my two favorites were Perfect Fit Dog & Cat Sweater (available online) and Howl (available in the first Stitch and Bitch book.) Perfect Fit is top down and seamless if that's your thing, whereas Howl is garter stitch and a little seaming, but still super simple.

6) If you don't want to commit to a whole sweater, you could probably knock this teeny Triangle Cowl for Tiny Creatures out in less than an hour. Most of the posted projects are for cats, but this pug is rocking the look. Work it, little pug. OWN IT.

If you have have a pet pattern you love, shout it out! I leave you with a dog in a pimp hat. Just because.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Easy Does It: Kid Sweater Roundup Edition

This week I started a Boathouse Mini for the girls (which I hope to embellish with some kind of vintage owl motif, inspired by this adorable hedgehog embroidery). I just love a nice, easy kids' knit. While there's certainly something to be said for children's garments that use descriptors like "heirloom" and "intricate", I find myself most often looking for good basics. Simple to knit, quick to finish, easy to wear... basically, the knits that have the best odds of being finished and used. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Tea with Jam and Bread by Heidi Kirmaier: With a size range all the way from a child's size 4 to an adult XXL, this pattern fills me with desire to make matching sweaters for the whole family. The color blocking possibilities! So exciting! Fun fact: I am a huge sucker for knits with pockets.

2) Gathering Stripes by Veera Valimaki: I was a little skeptical about the collar on this thing at first, but the kids wearing the sweater just look so damn stylish. It's true that a fingering weight pullover is quite a commitment, but it's pretty loosely knit (5.5 st/in), and you have to consider the added versatility you get out of a lighter weight sweater. Hearkening back to last weeks' post, there are some lovely rainbow interpretations out there. Also, this little boy in pink stripes? Rocking it. Oh, there's a grownup version too! 

3) Plain Cardigan by Anna & Heidi Pickles: While I find the Pickles website pretty complicated to navigate at times, they have some very sweet and simple patterns available. This one is available for free in size 0 - 3 months, or you can purchase sizes up to 8 years here. The Ravelry listing is for DK, but the pattern calls for yarn held doubled so gauge is a chunky 3.5 st/in. Malabrigo Worsted, perhaps? Cascade Eco Wool? Oh, yes. Delightful. 

4) Child's Classic Raglan Pullover by Jane Richmond: This pattern does exactly what it says on the tin. Timeless style, common gauge. I like it straight up, but visions of the many ways it could be varied and embellished are quite tantalizing. Duplicate stitch, fair isle, stripes... it's a perfect blank canvas. Having started one of these myself not long ago, I can vouch for the pattern as clearly written and beautifully laid out. 

5) Wonder Years Toddler/Child Cardigan by Elizabeth Smith: What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me? Or would you knit this sweater for my daughters? There's a very popular free version of this for babies, but I think the toddler/child sizes are worth shelling out for. Those babies are only going to get bigger.

6) Toddler Raglan Hoodie by Megan Goodacre: This is another great (free!) blank canvas sort of pattern. I love this example with variegated body/solid edging (and bonus points for referring to the sweater recipient as "Fatty McFatterson" LOL). Don't forget that a hood is a costume gold mine, as evidenced by this adorable little lion and zebra. And a Brobee! Also, check out this cool cloud/wavy thing with the stripes.

Feel free to shout out your favorite simple kid knits in the comments so we can all knit for our children as lazily as possible!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rainbow Roundup

My wife and I love rainbows. You probably could have guessed that from the rainbow colors at our wedding and our matching rainbow heart tattoos. Yes, it's partly the gay thing. But, it also has a lot to do with being born in the 80's. Our brains were saturated with ROYGBIV related color schemes from a young age, so there's a certain nostalgia factor. Plus, rainbows go with everything because they have all the colors in them!! Yay!

I got an urge to knit something rainbow-y for Lynn before the wedding, but there was that whole thing where I barely knit at all last year. And the thing where I proposed in July and we had the wedding in September, 77 days later- a tight deadline even for someone making contact with yarn on a regular basis. Still, I am not well known for my sense of what can reasonably be accomplished, so I dreamed big. Specifically, I was thinking of a Mitered Cross Blanket knit with Kauni Effektgarn Wool 8/2, a scratchy sport weight wool, in EQ. It's a self-striping rainbow colorway with l-o-n-g stretches of color, which I was hoping would pair up nicely with some neutral color to produce something like this example. I even bought the pattern and cast on, but thankfully doing two rows of miters on size 4 needles was enough to snap me back to reality. 

The rainbowl Kauni waited patiently until last month, when I experienced a Perfect Knitting Storm:

1) My wife said magical words- "You know, you haven't knit anything for me since we started dating!" 
2) BFF Allison gifted me with a beautiful Wurm hat for my birthday in the first week of Februrary.  I am convinced that it makes me look sophisticated, tough and European- a fat Lisbeth Salander. I can't show you a picture because I can't bear to have anyone tell me this is not the case.
3) Lynn admired the Wurm, and looking at other Ravelers' projects, I realized that Kauni was a viable option. She loves rainbows and seemingly has no sensitivity to less soft wools. Pefect.

And thus, Rainbow Ridges was made. 

My worry was that the color repeats would be so long that all the colors of the rainbow wouldn't fit on the hat. The pattern calls for 10 ridges, but I decided that I would keep knitting to the end of the spectrum, no matter what. For a while I was feeling pretty hopeful that I would only have to add one extra ridge, but I ended up with 14 ridges and a hat that vaguely resembles a windsock. Lynn says she can use the extra room at the top for storage, so I guess it's okay. Now my wife has hat with a little rainbow magic in it, and I have the satisfaction of seeing my knitting on someone who really appreciates my woolly expressions of love.

I was a little sad to see the end of the hat, but there's plenty of rainbows where that came from. This cute little sweater made my heart go pitter-pat. There may be some Rainbow Earrings in my future. Or maybe some of these fingerless gloves with Rainbow Fingers! (Another good use for Kauni, I think.) Hopefully, my knitting life will be pleasantly punctuated with these happy colors for a long time to come.