Monday, September 18, 2006

Cable Cast Ons and Live Stitches, Oh, my!

I get the newsletter and fell in love with the Fetching wrist warmers that was in a recent issue. Since I usually set aside September, October and November (okay, and December) as my Christmas knitting marathon, I usually spend the summers trying out patterns that might make good gifts for that broad base of friends, teachers, editors, agents, assistants, aunties and all the others who I like to give a small, handmade holiday "thank you" to. I've done hats, (one year knitting close to 40 hats in three months) purses, socks, and this year, I'm thinking gloves and wrist warmers. So when I saw the Knitty pattern, I decided to give it a test run.

A test run is essential--because if you are going to commit to a pattern, you better be darn sure it is going to be something you want to knit several times, and is fast and easy, and the yarn easy to work with. Last years' Lion Brand Cozy Slipper Socks are a perfect example of a great project that provides a quick gift and is fun to make.

But the Knitty pattern had two things that sort of stopped me in my tracks: A cable cast on, and "live stitches" for the thumb hole. Huh? Never one to shy away from learning new knitty skills, I printed out the cast on instructions I found on Knitty and off I went on vacation.

Okay, note to self: check what comes out of the printer before leaving on vacation to make sure you have ALL the instructions. Which I didn't. Thankfully, Seaside, Oregon has a wonderful yarn shop, where I went and peeked into my favorite knitting reference book, The Knitter's companion. Fortified with the knowledge, and two skeins of Debbie Bliss that I purchased there, I tried a cable cast on. Three attempts later, I got it, which I say proudly, because doesn't it always feel good to teach yourself (albeit with some printed help) a new skill? And I like it as a cast on, so it is definitely one I want to keep in knitting repretoire.

But those live stitches still stared me in the face. First you have to knit in waste yarn. Which I did. And then once you get the entire thing done, you pick out the waste yarn, leaving live stitches.

That's the nerve wracking part. Live stitches--just waiting to unravel. But carefully, I put them on needles and knit the thumb holes. Four more rounds and the wrist warmer was finished

Verdict: Great quick project that is easy and fun to do. Just enough skill work (cables and ribbing) to make it interesting, but not so hard that anyone couldn't do it. Here's my caveat though: The pattern says it can be done with one skein of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. Well, yes. But to finish the first pair, I had to short the last thumb two rounds, and was using a piece I'd cut from a leftover scrap of tail to finish it. So make sure you keep your tails VERY short, and don't knit any extra rounds.

So has anyone else started their holiday knitting and what are your favorite quick and easy patterns for great gifts?


Anonymous Theresa S. said...

I knit these! They took no time at all and were a fun, semi-mindless project. Mine are purple.

Love the blog!

12:16 PM  
Blogger LauraP said...

I bookmarked that pattern, but I was a bit intimidated by the 'live stitches', too. The handwarmers I've made required a cable needle for those thumb stitches, which wasn't so bad. But you're right, it's great learning new techniques.

I'm in awe at your gift knitting volume.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Fran Baker said...

I made wrist-warmers in her school colors for my college-age niece. She loved them! In fact, I think I could probably sell a bunch to other students if I were so inclined. And if I didn't do another thing until spring.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the comments. I was a little unnerved by the idea of live stitches, but it was really nothing to worry about. Isn't it funny how we get intimidated by such things? My mother is a quilt artist and she's taught for years--and she always says, just follow the instructions--don't worry about all the steps, just do them one at a time. And gosh, if that doesn't work. One step at a time and it really isn't that hard.

As for the volume of gift giving, I married into a large Irish family, and I have a pretty good sized family, as well as my youngest son has autism, so he has like 6-7 people who provide such blessed services to him, the least I can do is something for them. Plus, I've spent a lot of time at therapy appointments, so I usually bring knitting. This is why I look for Christmas ideas that I can really knock out quickly and easily. The Christmas of hats was hilarious--I'll hunt up the pic of all the hats and post it one of these days.

1:14 PM  
Blogger bethc said...

Those look great! Good to know they're not hard. They might end up on my list of gifts to make!

1:16 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

Did you check out the Voodoo Wrist Warmers, also maybe two or three years ago? Sock yarn, ribbing, mindless as can be and, I would think, easily adaptable to faster knitting w/thicker yarn.

Elizabeth, your photos are wonderful. What kind of camera are you using? My close-up shots look like I took them from the inside of a fishbowl.

1:39 PM  
Blogger KnitTech said...

They look good! This year everyone is getting scarves. Last year it was hats. The year before it was fingerless gloves. I guess I did mine backwards. :)

2:45 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Barbara, I used the macro setting so the camera would know to focus really close (and taking a bunch of pics until I got the ones I wanted.) I found it interesting how the color came out, because the gloves are a plum color, but they came out blue in one photo and more purple in another. Odd, huh!

Knittech, I think you and I are on opposite schedules--I did scarfs a few years ago. We'll have to collaborate next year!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I've thought about trying this pattern, and now think I really must. My hands are near impossible to keep warm in the winter when I'm using the computer, and so a wide variety of wrist warmers/fingerless gloves is very important. Thanks for the tip!

4:20 PM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

This is just the review I needed today! I ordered a bunch of cashmerino aran last night with the thought of gifting a bunch of these this year. Thank you!

4:30 PM  
Blogger Jamie Denton said...

I have to try a pair of those handwarmers. My hands get so cold during the winter months, these would be perfect!

I've started my holiday knitting, too. I love doing scarves because they're quick and easy, and with the fun fur, well, they're fun! I've also completed a prayer shawl for my mom, a sweater for one grandson and have started that fair isle project for the granddaughter on circular needles. Loving those, BTW!

4:31 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Jamie, I love doing the projects for the kids. There is a wonderful little cabled sweater I am thinking about doing for the boys to have their Christmas picture taken in. But the question becomes do I have time to knit all the other projects AND two sweaters.
BTW, did you use a pattern for your prayer shawl? I've been thinking of making one with all my leftover bits.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Cindi Myers said...

Oh, I want a pair of these. They look like the perfect thing for cold winter days at the keyboard!

I just learned cable cast-on last week.

I'm doing dishcloths in multiple colors and patterns to give all my girlfriends. A quick, fun project that's also easy to mail. Every year I do some small project like this -- last year was lavender-stuffed sachets, one year was bookmarks, one year ornament. This year -- dishcloths.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

If anyone needs baby gifts, I recommend the bib I knitted a few weeks ago. If you read my blog of Sept. 7th, you can avoid the stupid mistakes I made and have a really fun, useful gift. Despite my off-center buttonhole and bleeding stripes, the recipient of the blogged-about bib was thrilled and so was his mother. :-)

It's fast so you could make a trio in bright colors for a really impressive gift.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Jamie Denton said...

Elizabeth, yes, I did. I found it on the Lion Brand website in their free patterns section.

This was my was my first project since returning to the world of knitting.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Denise said...

Those wrist warmers are tempting me...might just try them after I am done with one of the current projects. For Christmas gifts, I loved the Fuzzy Feet. Fast and easy, everybody loved them.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I went and looked up the Fuzzy Feet pattern--and immediately printed it out! And I think I have enough left over Brown Sheep from another project to make these...Ooooh, warm feet!

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy said...

Yay Jamie! Glad the circulars didn't gnaw your nose off or anything. :-D (I worry about that kind of stuff, y'know.)

Elizabeth, thanks so much for the photo of the waste yarn in use. It may be time to take the plunge, although cables give me the willies ...

5:06 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

THE Wendy posted a super-easy pattern for fingerless mitts on her website. You can find it at -- she used handspun but says it can be done with 2 skeins of (sigh) Noro Kureyon . . . something I happen to have in abundance thanks to a friend's kindness.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Hey all! I just finished another one, and changed the pattern just a little. On the last round before the bind off round, I K2TOG in the middle two stitches of each of the K4 ribs, then I bound it off, and I like it so much better. I think the first pair is too loose around the fingers, and I like a smoother fit. I also went and bought 4 more skeins of the Debbie Bliss yarn to keep going on these, because they are such GREAT takealong projects.

1:36 PM  

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