Monday, July 12, 2010

Magnum Opus

A rare and unlikely thing has occurred - I may actually be lost for words.  May I then very simply present something that I think may be a serious contender for the best thing I have ever knit:
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Point Reyes is finished.

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I love the colours and the bloom of the yarn after a good wash and block, and the whales and boats and lighthouses.  There just isn't a bad thing to say about this project except that it is such a shame that Pacific Coast Highway is out of print because now only people who had the foresight to buy the book, or people who have lovely friends with said foresight who were kind enough to lend the book get the chance to make this oh so pretty blanket.

When I last interrupted the daily spinning commentary I was hard at work at the border which, according to the pattern, should be the last bit of knitting on the blanket.  The pattern tells you to trim the steeks and then neatly cross stitch them to the reverse. Well whereas I can knit a cardigan and not feel the need to 'fringe' any remaining loose steeks, I'd be unrealistic to expect such a level of control from my baby so we needed a little bit more than some neat cross stitch, however sticky and shetland the wool may be.
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For anyone that may have been concerned, this is the state of one of the steeks after I had knit not only the border but also my facings - the edge stitches are the ones which I cut along, and they look slightly fluffy - see how generations of Scottish and Scandinavian knitters have not been having us on!

My plan for little facings to cover the steek was filched in its entirety from a Rainey Sisters post from 2007. Sally made another Alice Starmore - the Cats and Mice blanket and added neat little facings each side to cover the steek by picking up the same stitch as the border had been picked up through and then knitting a few rounds of pattern with steeks at top and bottom (she explains it much better than I do though).

The border is picked up through one half of the pattern edge stitches so I did a little experiment to see how best to pick up for the facings:
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Option 1 picked up through the same half stitch as the border pick ups:
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Option 2 picked up through the other half of the stitch:
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And Option 3 picked up through both halves of the edge stitch and was declared the winner:
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I think that in practice, any one of them would have worked but the last one looked the neatest on the finished facing and seemed to naturally lie the flattest - at least as far as you can tell with little flappy samples.

I cast on 4 stitches, then picked up (through both legs of the stitch) all of the edge stitches that had been picked up for the border (245 stitches in a rhythm set by the original pattern), then cast on 8 stitches for the bottom steek, picked up another 245 up the other side, and cast on a final four.  I picked up stitches on what would eventually have looked like the wrong side if I'd kept knitting so that the little purl bumps from the pick up didn't get stuck being lumpy under the facing and the I reversed the knitting direction just after I joined the top steek to knit in the round.

I knit the wave repeat from the main pattern (with one little added extra) and then cast off and cut the top and bottom steeks.

Once I'd trimmed the long steeks a little for neatness I found it quite helpful to give the facings a little press with a steam iron (underneath a pressing cloth) just to get them sitting nicely and then I pinned the facings in place and got to it with a darning needle, tacking the facing down onto the loose strands at the back of the fairisle:
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And that's really all there was to it.  You can't see the facings, or any evidence of their existence from the front, the added bulk is minimal, and yet when you turn it over:
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A few little waves greet you.

And a little addition on one of the other corners:

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I can't add the baby's name because if I waited to do the facings until I had the baby, he or she would be more of a university student by the time they got a finished blanket, but as I am fairly certain that little bear will be making an appearance before the end of December, I've added his or her year of birth which at the very least will eliminate any doubt as to whose blanket it is in the event of there being some beary brothers or sisters down the line.
From the front, a yacht race in what must be some of the most treacherous racing conditions out there if they're dodging lighthouses and whales like that:
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From the back, all neat and tidy.
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If I were to change anything it would perhaps be to improve my fairisle technique; I think I'm overly cautious about catching floats and I could probably leave them to run a lot longer, and as a result there are little hints of red peeking through some of my pale blue, and certainly the back doesn't have that negative image of the front that you see so often, but maybe I should just accept that as my 'Persian Carpet' moment.
The thing that really surprised me (other than how huge it is), is how light it feels as a finished blanket.  Porting it round the house and turning it round and round on my lap felt like a bit hefty piece of textile but this finished piece is soft and flowing - it makes me wonder just how much sweat and dirt I washed out of it - I suppose it had been on the needles since March.

I love it unashamedly and I'm so pleased I saved it to make for my baby, because I could not bear to give this away.
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It is truly a high point.

But there is just one last tip I want to share with you - it cannot have escaped the attention of anyone in the UK that it's been a touch warm recently, and with my inner radiator a constant companion I've been one of those people feeling especially pink around the edges.  Here is my salvation, and my other constant companion while finishing this blanket:
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Pure bliss!


  1. You've just made me smile, I remember being almost surrounded by rotary fans whilst being pregnant with son no.1 during a very hot July in 1989.

    Now to your blanket, I am at a loss for words Carie, it is beautiful, absolutely stunning. I think you were right to keep the stranding very short, you can't be too careful where baby's fingers are concerned and it will wear like iron and last forever.

    It will be the perfect companion for your baby, day and night and I for one will be happy to see it slowly, so very slowly get loved to bits as your child grows day by day.

  2. It is lovely and you are rightly proud. My experience with floats in sticky wool is that you can make them as long as you like in something that will be worn because in no time at all the floats have bedded into the fabric never to be floating again. With a blanket I'm not so sure whether it would get the level of all over wear needed to mash them in so maybe shorter will be better. I like the added interest on the back, especially the addition of the year.

    I should probably not say that the solution to out of print blankets is a selection of good photos and a pad of graph paper.

    PS In our house that would be referred to as your "magnificent octopus"

  3. That is brilliant, a family heirloom and such beautifully work.

  4. Wow, that is great. I wasn't too sure when I saw the photos of it on the needles (not being a great person for multiple colours anyway), but I think flat and bordered it works really well. You've done the back very neatly, although I was hoping you'd back it with fabric, and then blog detailed instructions of how you'd done it as my Lithograph blanket is going to need backing, and I have no idea how.

    Excellent job, well done! :)

  5. Wow! Truly impressive! [I stumbled across your blog while looking for info on a stuffed animal wearing an aran pattern body. . . . I know I've seen it somewhere!) Happy to have found you after googling 'knitted bear' - best wishes!

  6. This is truly impressive Carie and quite stunning!

  7. You did an absolutely gorgeous job and should be VERY proud! Wow. Wow. Wow.


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