Just So Bag by Andrea Babb

Lace Panel in ProcessLast summer I bought the yarn and pattern to make a Just So Bag. The bag was published in Interweave Knits, Winter 2012. (Back copies can be purchased on Ravelry.)

My knitting “teacher” in Maine had one in a light gray and it was very, very pretty. I wanted to make one for me. They didn’t have the yarn called for in the pattern in a dark gray (Rowan Pure Wool Aran) so we substituted Lambs Pride Worsted. Mine is in the Charcoal Heather color way. Theoretically, a good call. Practically, however, the mohair content … at least in my skeins … was very “fuzzy” and the beautiful stitches in the lace panels are somewhat lost.

If I were to make this pattern again, and I think I probably will, I would be very certain to use a yarn that was NOT fuzzy and in a lighter color. Both will show off the lovely lace in the end panels. And if you’re going to do all the work, you want to choose yarn that accentuates your stitches.

The pattern itself is very straight forward and, done with yarn held doubled, it’s a quick knit. My friend said it was difficult on her hands. It’s a very dense fabric that is constructed on relatively small needles. I had no trouble but someone who has arthritis may find this difficult to knit. One knitter on Ravelry was wise enough to do the body in one piece. Starting with a crochet cast on, she knitted the “front”, picked up the live stitches, knitted a row of reverse stockinette, the base of the bag, another row of reverse stockinette and finally the “back”. Smart thinking! I still don’t love seaming … do you? I’ll try this next time.

The lace panels on each end are gorgeous. They’re (thankfully) knit with a single yarn and much easier on your hands. I struggled with the chart, as did several of the others who have knitted the bag. If you’re not comfortable with carts, take the time to write out the entire chart. Save yourself! I chose not to. I battled the chart … it was a valiant effort and I won in the end.

The first time, I was working with dark gray yarn and dark gray needles. Not a good start. But like any good knitter, after several false starts (and frogging yarn with a lot of mohair “fuzz”), I tossed all the parts in the “naughty” closet and left it for almost a year while I worked on other projects. I wanted to finish it this summer and at the start I found it challenging but as soon as I changed my needles, I got it. I had to be mindful and watch the right side and wrong side of the panel. (I worked at home, alone, in a bubble and did a lot of talking to myself.) Once I got the rhythm of the lace chart, I was fine … except when I got to socializing and I consistently forgot the last yarn over. Oops!

I’ll post a picture of my bag when it’s completed. I still have to purchase supplies and manufacture my handles (or ask my better half to do so) but I’m eager to use the bag and I may even have my friend help me figure out how to sew pockets into it. Her bag, knitted with the same yarn, turned out beautifully and it’s not as fuzzy as mine. Go figure! I think the double-stranded sides will be stiff enough to give it some structure. One Raveler said she added a hard plastic bottom on her bag. That’s also a good idea. Once filled, the bottom sags a lot.

Gone knitting.

Fannar by Shannon Okey (aka knitgrrl)

Yarn - Cascade 220  (Color #9401 Lot #0739

Yarn – Cascade 220 (Color #9401 Lot #0739

I am nearly done with my first test knitting “job”. It’s been a very rewarding experience, and beyond the knitting, I’ve been privileged to “meet” some wonderful and fun knitters. Enough so that I am hoping they’ll take me up on my offer to host a knitting retreat at our house in Maine next September (2015).

My pattern is called “Fannar” and will be in the new book, coming out soon, called “Frozen: Aurora Borealis Mittens.” (No, I didn’t get paid, since I know you’re all wondering!) When I received my yarn, “ordinary” Cascade 220 in a lovely ivory and grey tweed, I immediately felt some relief from my perceived design-envy. First lesson learned: You don’t have to use exotic (aka pricey) yarns when you design! Who knew!? I was so excited that I nearly tinkled! 🙂

The fabric - unfelted

The fabric – unfelted

The initial pattern that I was sent was a chart. Now, I’ve knitted from charts many times before but never for an entire pattern and it was intimidating for about ten minutes. Until I realized that I knew this! I know this! I had it covered and I could do it. And I cast on with a provisional cast on to leave some live stitches for the cuff.

I knitted up the largest size and after I’d reached the thumb crotch my gut was telling me that this puppy was absolutely over-the-top humongous! I sent a photo to Shannon and she, too, was amazed at its girth. So, I frogged the behemoth and we started from scratch. As Shannon was out of town, Andi stepped in and whipped up an entirely new mitten pattern. And I started knitting again … this time a more appropriate size, even knowing that it is going to be felted.

Thumb Gusset (part deux)

Thumb Gusset (part deux) – way more normal!

The second iteration of “Fannar” is much more normal and the knitting process is super quick. Since I got the one-color mitten, I think I got the easiest job in the book. It’s been super fun to follow the secret Facebook group and watch as other test knitters knit their patterns. And to learn about the comment threads via email, used to communicate. It makes me want to knit more color work. That may be my summer challenge.

I’m wrapping up the second mitten and will finish the second thumb today. Then my job will be over. I can’t wait to see the finished product – the mitten will be felted in Ohio and a cuff will be knitted on afterward (thus the special cast on). I think I am going to have to knit up a pair for myself and felt them and see how it turns out … just for sh#$s and giggles!

What an excellent experience!

Gone knitting.

Foiled … or Frogged Again!

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One side in process … double strand worsted weight yarn on size 6 US needles!

This summer I started knitting the most wonderful bag. My Friday Knitting teacher had one that I absolutely loved and, of course, I needed one, too! So, I bought the yarn they suggested and started knitting.

The pattern is called the “Just So Bag” by Andrea Babb and calls for Rowan Pure Wool Aran (Superwash). It was suggested to me that we could use Lambs Pride Worsted in its place. I wish I had been thinking about that – because the mohair in the Lambs Pride yarn makes it fuzzy. Duh! (And the worsted is a little bit heavier weight than the aran.)

The first parts to be knitted are knit with double strands of worsted weight wool. On fairly small needles. Hard on your hands! But I got them all done. And they look good!

But the lace ends of the bag (one needs to knit two) … another story all together! Ugh!

The lace end ... 2nd or 3rd attempt!

The lace end … 2nd or 3rd attempt! See the fuzz?

Today I frogged the lace end (I’ve only started one … and started and started again) for the third or fourth time. Ugh! I really need a bigger chart and I really need less fuzzy yarn. When you’re knitting lace (even if it’s worsted weight yarn) it really needs to be smooth so that the stitches are visible. These are somewhat blurred (and I helped by dropping a stitch that I could not recover.) Because of the mohair blended in, it’s very difficult to read my stitches and makes repairing a dropped stitch, or any other mistake (yes, I do make mistakes!) much more complicated than if it were plain wool. (Which is why the pattern calls for wool, BTW, and not a wool blend.)

So, I will start again but not until I have knitted something cute that I want to knit  … something relatively simple. Maybe the cute pair of striped fingerless mitts that I’ve been seeing. Or the felted slippers (I only bought the pattern ages ago!) Or the little sweater for Faye for Christmas. Or the headband for Libet. So many choices that I may have to just go have an adult beverage and a swim and call it a day! Tomorrow is Monday after all and I am back to work! This job has sure cut into my knitting time! 🙂

Gone …. well, maybe I’ll be knitting.