Saturday 11 June 2011

Jiffy bag for a baby

A little while ago I blogged about my love for French knitting patterns...  

This holds especially true when it comes to patterns for children and babies.  I tend to find that French childrenswear combines an element of fun with a great sense of style.  It avoids being overly twee without going to the other extreme of trying to look like miniature adult wear and often takes the form of simple blocky shapes, adorned with pom poms, stripes or tassels, in colour palettes that veer between chic neutrals and quirky brights...   or to put to another way, you don't see many French babies clad in peach acrylic matinee jackets.  
Anyway... now that my own little alien is 4 days days overdue, I am pleased to announce that I have finished my small homage to French babywear in the nick of time.  Behold the baby sleep sack...  (or, if you like, the glorified jiffy bag!)

This is made using a pattern called Confortable, which originated in a French magazine and has since been translated into English by a brilliant lady on Ravelry, here.

Having taken advice from others, I made this a few inches longer and wider than the pattern recommends, in the hope that it will fit for longer.  (For now I've delayed blocking it, until I see how well it fits little master   newborn, when he arrives - but I reckon I could probably grow it a fair bit, if need be).  

Anyway I would happily recommend both the pattern and the yarn.  I used Rowan All Seasons Cotton in a silver grey colour.  It has a nice sproingy twist to it that gives it some loft and makes the knitted fabric feel soft and comfortable.  Hopefully boy will agree...

Full details of the pattern, yarn and needle size can be found on Ravelry, here

EDIT:  Since I wrote this post, baby has been born and he fits into the sack with room to spare... pic here:

EDIT:  I have had a lot of requests to share the English translation of this pattern, so I have put it online here:  (I assume this is ok, given that the  original pattern is available online for free)

Monday 6 June 2011

Look back in angora

Dear Knitters, this is the story of a near death experience... I could well have entitled it "blockers beware!"  However I am pleased to say that it has a happy ending...
Some may recall me blogging overexcitedly back in January about this crazily luxurious Absolu Angora yarn that I had ordered from France...

Well - after a minor dither about what to use it for, I eventually cast on for the Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos.  Left to my own devices, I would never have thought of  this pattern, but I got the idea from someone else on Ravelry and it turned out to be very well matched indeed.  Two balls of the Absolu is *just* enough to complete the project, with the main part of the shawl taking one ball and the lace border using up almost all of the second.  

The knitting proved to be rather a delicious sensory experience.  Although the yarn did shed a little during knitting, it was not as bad as you'd normally expect from angora - (e.g. it didn't shed as much as the Sublime Angora Merino blend that I've used in the past, or waft constantly up my nose).  On the whole it is simply very very soft and as light as air as it slips through your fingers.
I finally bound off the edging a few days ago and spent an hour or so wafting around the house draped in it, pre-blocking, before declaring it to be the softest, finest and most beautiful thing I'd ever made...  and then I almost ruined everything with an act of crazy hubris.  
Here is the cautionary tale.  Because I fancied blocking the lace edging, I decided to risk putting the shawl through the handwash cycle on my washing machine.  I've used this cycle many times before on fine yarns, including cashmere, wool and angora blends - effectively it simulates the act of hand washing and has never let me down before.  In this case I even double-bagged the shawl inside a pair of lingerie bags for safety.  And then I tried to ignore the niggly voice in my head questioning whether I really wanted to press the 'start' switch...
Suffice to say, when it came out of the machine - it felt like a moment of tragedy.  I was convinced that I had felted the item to oblivion.  The main symptom was that it appeared to have shrunk, and the stitches in the main body of the scarf had melded together into a more tight fabric than before.  As for the lace edging... lets just say that it didn't look as lacey as I remembered it.  The only glimmer of hope was that the shawl seemed to have retained its softness and mobility, and hadn't become stiffened or thick.  So I went into damage limitation mode and blocked it as vigorously as I dared, stretching it as far as possible and trying to open out the lace edging again.  
After a night on the boards, I am pleased (or make that delighted) to say that it seems to have survived by the skin of its teeth.  It is a pheonix risen from the ashes!  Yes - it has shrunk a little bit and is probably now more of a scarf than a shawl.  However it still flops and drapes as softly as before - and, best of all, the lace edging is still lace!   
As a finished scarf, it remains extremely soft to wear - as light as air and not remotely itchy.  In fact I have even discovered a small bonus from the shrinkage...  thanks to the closer melding of the stitches, the scarf no longer sheds and can be worn over my black clothing!   
So here are a few pics...

More pictures and full project details can be seen on Ravelry, here
If you'd like a moral to the story - then my suggestion to anyone using this yarn is that you might want to refrain from washing it at all - either prior to blocking or afterwards.  I suspect a light spritz with cool water would be sufficient for blocking, and then perhaps resort to dry clean only.   (Unless you want to felt it, of course... in which case, um, I don't think you'll have to try very hard!)