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Author Archives: Selma Moss-Ward

  • Summer Memories in the Making: The Leaf Squares Afghan

    Summer vacation is a grand opportunity for knitting.  You’ve got time to express your creativity, time to knit to your heart’s content!  Summer is also when you’re outdoors, at the beach or pool, in your garden or a public park.  You’d love to sit under a shade tree and knit, but the thought of making something large that drapes across your lap…well, no thanks.

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    The Leaf Squares Afghan will change your mind about summer knitting.  Constructed incrementally, piece by piece, it’s an entirely portable project.  You work with only a single skein at a time, so you’re not hauling around loads of yarn in the heat. Each section is only 25 rows from start to finish, ultimately measuring about 8.5 inches square.  This means that each section is small enough to pop inside a beach bag, a handbag, or even a large pocket.  You can have it with you on day trips, when traveling, or even while you’re waiting in the car to pick up kids from camp.

    Landscapes®, the yarn for this pattern, is light and lofty; knitting it is a tactile pleasure. This loftiness also guarantees that when the sections are sewn into a larger blanket you’ll have warmth without much weight.

    Landscapes has great stitch definition, silky luster, subtle and rich coloration.  Once you’ve completed the squares and joined them, you’ll see how the several colors of yarn, plus the multiplication of the leaf pattern, plus the texture and drape of the fabric, create a whole that’s much more than the sum of its parts.  It’s a magical result.

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    Equally magical, though, is the knitting of each section.  Think of each square as a knitting companion.  Take one with you as you move through your summer; before long, you’ve finished it and started another.  Each square accomplishes so much, so quickly, that you never lose interest.  In fewer than 25 rows, an embossed leaf pattern emerges within all of the four triangles composing each square.  And each square is so cleverly constructed that you’ll learn lots about knitting technique (or refresh what you already know).

    The Leaf Squares Afghan reminds me, amusingly, of Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant.  In summer the grasshopper played, while the ant worked steadily to gather food for the winter.  When summer ended, the ant had enough food stored for the winter months, while the grasshopper, who hadn’t anticipated the future, knew he would go hungry.

    In knitting the Leaf Squares Afghan I see myself as Aesop’s industrious ant preparing for winter, but with this difference—my work is also my relaxation and my play.  As I embark on summer travel, or as I sit on my screen porch at twilight, I’m having a great time knitting each and every square.  By summer’s end I’ll have finished all 36 pieces, and I’ll sew them together in the fall.  Then, in the winter, when I pull the Leaf Squares Afghan around me for some extra warmth, I’ll be reminded of the places I went and the things I did during those lovely summer days.

     

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  • Love that Lasts: Knitted Stuffed Animals

    Want to knit a sheepdog?  Or an elephant, rabbit, bear, or skunk?  Go for it!  I began knitting toys decades ago, for myself as much as for special kids.  Lately I’ve been knitting toys for my grandchildren.  Knit a sweater for a toddler, and she’ll outgrow it in a season.  Knit a stuffed animal for a toddler, and she’ll have a forever friend.

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    I have two rules about knitting stuffed toys.  The first:  Always use a washable yarn that’s mothproof.  You want your animal to have a good, long life.  Acrylic is best for surviving love’s energy, moths, and the dust of time. I favor Vanna’s Choice® for its durability and clear, vibrant colors.  (I also admire that Lion Brand donates a percentage of Vanna’s Choice® sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.)

    The second rule:  Assume that the toy will not look exactly like the pattern illustration. Just as expectant parents have a vague idea of how their newborn will look, so too do knitters have a general sense of a project’s outcome.  But stuffed animals, like kids, have characters independent of the creator, and they always become distinctive selves. I promise that you’ll be delighted by the uniqueness of your knitted pet.

    Recently, when I made the Knitted Farm Animals Sheep Dog, I observed my rules, and I’m completely in love with the result.  Sheep Dog is knitted in black and white Vanna’s Choice® acrylic worsted.  Even though I carefully followed the instructions, he definitely has his own look, different from the pattern photo.  Why?

    Unlike many toy designs, Sheep Dog is knitted on straight needles, rather than double points. Sheep Dog has twelve flat pieces that are sewn together. That’s significant sewing, and his face is embroidered, too. (Here’s a tip:  leave six inches of yarn attached to each piece after binding off, and use it for seaming.) The extra steps required by the sewing, as opposed to the fewer steps required by knitting in the round, impact the toy’s appearance.

    Yet Sheep Dog has a flexibility enabled by the joint-like connections of some seams. If you look at the photo of Sheep Dog next to Babar (a free pattern on Ravelry, also knitted in Vanna’s Choice®), you’ll see that Babar’s legs—knitted on double points and integral to his torso—don’t bend, but Sheep Dog can easily sit because his legs are hinged to his body by seams.

    Since Sheep Dog’s face is embroidered—except for his nose, which is a very small knitted triangle—each knitter will impart her own sewing “signature” to his features.  That’s the main reason his individual look is guaranteed.  Gauge, and density of stuffing, will also affect Sheep Dog’s appearance.  I stuffed Sheep Dog somewhat loosely, to impart a floppy “Beanie Baby” look.  Additionally, I didn’t strictly follow the designer’s instructions for sewing Sheep Dog’s ears or tail, because I wanted him droopy.

    Sheep Dog took about a weekend to knit and assemble.  If you’re the kind of knitter who likes swift results, toys are good projects.  Just be aware that you might have a hard time surrendering your knitted pets for adoption.

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  • Tranquility in a Skein: A Look at Shawl in a Ball

    It was pure serendipity and a welcome distraction when three skeins of Shawl in a Ball arrived in the mail.  Frequently faced with interruptions, demands, and pressurized decisions, I constantly long for peace and simplicity in my life.  Especially for the peace of knitting.

    Knitting is how I escape from the daily barrage—it feels like a protective bubble around me.  As I swatched the colorways called Community Coral, Soothing Blue, and Mindful Mauve, I sensed the calming properties of this yarn.  The more I knitted, the more I discovered about Shawl in a Ball, the better I felt.  Why?  Let me count the ways….

    First, it’s an honest yarn.  I love that Shawl in a Ball is exactly what it claims to be—just one skein does it all.  As warmer weather approaches, I’m not inclined to tackle big projects.  I don’t want to deal with weight or bulk.  I want something simple and light—something to occupy my hands when sitting outdoors, or chatting with a friend.  Shawl in a Ball is streamlined:  one skein equals one garment.  Everything fits in a small tote bag.  No measuring required, since the patterns designed for this yarn (in the Lion Brand database) are one size, so no worries about running out of yarn.  This is stress-free knitting at its best.

    Second:  the calming colorways of Shawl in a Ball.  Have I mentioned that  I’m often overwhelmed by too many choices, by too many demands for my attention?  And that I crave simplicity?

    Each of the eight magical colorways prompts the serene contemplation of one gorgeous shade melting into the next.  The yarn is the palette.  You are the hands.  The free patterns from Lion Brand are basic shapes—triangles, rectangles, semi-circles, circles.  Not complicated, just classic and universally flattering.  They facilitate yarn meditation of the highest order.  Just breathe, and go with the flow.

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    Knit Perfectly Simple Rectangle Shawl Crochet Burnham Market Shawl

     

    Third, the texture and drape created by Shawl in a Ball are fabulous.  The yarn consists of two different strands plied together—one cotton, one a fluffy thick-and-thin acrylic. Watching density and coloration change as stitches add up—it’s simply mesmerizing!  Although a worsted, when knitted on size eight or ten needles, the yarn becomes a fabric that’s fine and lacy.  Yet it drapes well—with body, and without curling edges.  Shawls won’t slip off your shoulders.  And if you want to turn your shawl into a heavier scarf, just fold the finished garment to make it thicker.

    Perhaps you’ve already experienced the joy of crafting with a gradient yarn, and you know how the yarn’s shifting colors do much of the work.  The same is true for Shawl in a Ball, but just as important, this yarn creates art.  You could knit or crochet a skein into a large rectangle, frame it, and hang it on your living room wall—it’s that beautiful.  So, besides all the simplifying, de-stressing and mood elevating qualities contained in just one ball, you can consider the shawl you make a wearable work of art.

    What’s not to love?

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    Knit Drop Stitch Shawl Crochet Diagonal Eyelets Shawl

     

     

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