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Unwindings: Knitting in the Round

August 19th, 2014

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knitting-in-the-round-blogI learned to knit when I was eight. It was summer, school was out. For entertainment I explored a rarely opened closet. There was a shopping bag stuffed with maroon yarn, and a cylindrical leatherette case which, unzipped, revealed a jumble of colored metal knitting needles. I dragged everything into the light.

“What is this?” I asked my mother.

“Oh,” she said. “It’s my knitting. A sweater….I think.”

How amazing. I’d never seen her knit—did she knit while I slept?—and, naively, couldn’t imagine why she’d abandon the project. It seemed sad that the yarn had languished in obscurity.

“Why don’t you finish it?”

I’ve forgotten her answer. Probably her “I’m too busy” mantra, accompanied by a giant exhale of cigarette smoke. I do remember thinking this yarn deserved a kinder fate.

“Will you teach me to knit?” I asked.

So it began. I knitted blankets for my dolls, then scarves. Later, I learned to read patterns, saved babysitting money for yarn, knitted hats and sweaters. As a teenager, I commuted between school and home on the New York subway, carrying textbooks and knitting. Knitting gave me something to do in transit, and as I walked through dicey neighborhoods between the subway station and our apartment, the needles, tucked under my arm and pointing forward, protected me from aspiring muggers.
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A Reason For Everything: Felted Lunch Bag and Pencil Case

August 17th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

Felted Lunch Bag Meredith sometimes wondered how life would be if she could travel back in timeand change just one thing. What if a seemingly random choice had been different? Like, why had she craved bright pink everything when she was a kid? She’d had the pink lunchbox, backpack, pencil case, flip-flops, barrettes…even a bright pink toothbrush!

Now, in college, she absolutely couldn’t fathom why she’d adored that color. She wondered, though, if she’d have become a different person had her early taste run to earth tones.

An ecology major, Meredith loved studying organisms and their environments. Similarly, she loved living in the balance–this was how knitting came in. The beautiful simplicity of two sticks and a ball of yarn offset the high-tech essentials of 21st century life. The subtle yarns she favored evoked country roads, open fields, dunes, rocky shores. Like the rugged, marled Fishermen’s Wool she’d recently used–it conjured up a time when handwork was honored, and things made to last.

Felted Pencil CaseEspecially pleasing were the useful lunch bag and pencil case she’d knitted of Fishermen’s Wool® in only a few hours, then felted (magical!), then appliqued with a beguiling acorn and rustic apple tree. Afterwards, she showed them to Paige, her roommate.

“These are totally adorable!” Paige exclaimed. “How’d you find such great projects?”

Meredith flashed onto her younger self and suddenly realized it was actually because of that Pink Phase that she’d become everything she was, here and now.

“Oh,” she smiled, “someone I used to know pointed me towards them.”

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A story by Selma Moss-Ward.

Selma Moss-Ward writes and knits in Rhode Island. You can find her work on our blog, as well as Lion Brand’s monthly newsletter, Pattern Journal, which you can subscribe to here.


Too Sweet To Pass Up: Candy Color Afghan

August 3rd, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. We’re sharing the most recent story here in the blog. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

Yarn is my candy, Stella thought. Enthralled by their beautiful colors and textures, she could practically taste the yarns displayed in the neighborhood craft shop.

Close in age and interests, Stella, who crocheted, and her sister Marie, who knitted, were like kids in a candy store whenever they yarn-shopped. They bought impulsively, trusting they’d find good projects later on.

Now, almost unconsciously, Stella had grabbed two colors of delectable Sock-EaseTM, called “Lemon Drop” and “Red Hots.” I could do something cool with these, she thought, feeling her yarn cravings morph into a creative buzz. But what?

For years Stella had watched her sister knit Sock-EaseTM socks as automatically as her own crochet hook created scarves and hats. The variegated colors that emerged as the sock lengthened were magical. Stella wished she could crochet something as entrancing.

“Look at this,” called Marie, waving a downloaded Lion Brand pattern placed by the store’s owner near the Sock-EaseTM shelf. “It’s for crochet!” she practically shouted. “You could make this adorable ‘Candy Color Afghan‘ with that yarn you’re holding!”

“I was thinking I’d buy this yarn so you could make me some socks,” Stella replied.

“But this is more fun, Stell. Look at those colors— they’re totally edible!”

Stella examined the crochet directions. Marie was right. The afghan’s granny-square grid resembled an open box of sweets. This candy-colored afghan in four colors of Sock-EaseTM—Lemon Drop, Cotton Candy, Red Hots, and Rock Candy—would be a delicious project, Stella knew.

“And if you give it to me for my birthday,” said Marie, “I’d knit you socks in any of the Sock-EaseTM colors you like.”

“I knew you had an ulterior motive, Marie. What if I like all fourteen colorways?”

Marie grinned. “Then you might get birthday socks for the next fourteen years.”

“Okay, sister,” Stella said. “That’s a deal too sweet to ignore.”

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A story by Selma Moss-Ward.

Selma Moss-Ward writes and knits in Rhode Island. You can find her work on our blog, as well as Lion Brand’s monthly newsletter, Pattern Journal, which you can subscribe to here.


A Welcome Surprise: Baby Cardigan – Oh Natural!

July 20th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

There weren’t many occasions when Jean was at a loss for words, but when Ben stopped by after work with the news–”Mom and Dad, you’re going to be grandparents!”–she was speechless. After she’d finished hugging her son and husband while giggling uncontrollably; after she’d finally regained composure and they’d discussed the due date and how Lara was feeling (tired, queasy, thrilled), then Jean felt a tremendous urge to get out her needles, find some beautiful yarn, and knit, knit, knit. Besides bringing so much joy, a new baby offered a great knitting opportunity!

Jean liked her knitting simple. She viewed projects as emblems of a lifestyle she wished to cultivate–clean designs, quality materials, form aligned to function.

When she saw the online photo of the “Oh Natural!” baby cardigan, it fit these requirements perfectly. The sweater–utter simplicity, classic style–and the organic yarn the pattern specified, were everything she wanted. Only the softest, only the purest, only the best for her grandbaby.

With every stitch, Jean thought how adored this child would be. She and Doug told Ben and Lara they didn’t want to know the baby’s gender beforehand. “Surprise us,” they’d said. That made her color choice easier too–warmest ivory of velvety-soft cotton, suitable for a boy or girl. “Dear little one,” whispered Jean as she shaped the winsome sweater, which seemed as it developed, to make her grandchild ever more real. “May your life be as happy as mine is now, as I wait with delicious anticipation, to welcome you whole-heartedly into this world.”

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Selma Moss-Ward is a freelance writer who combines her love of writing and of knitting in her columns, stories, and blog posts. Selma is also an active classical musician and the caretaker of five wonderful pets. She lives with them and her husband in Rhode Island.


New Life in an Old Place: the Open Air Shrug

June 29th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. We’re sharing the most recent story here in the blog. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

The house was left to Liza. Grammy had known she was its spiritual heir. Liza was the only one who’d never wanted to leave on Sunday nights, who adored her summer vacations there. Grammy’s house — “the old place” — had been in the family for generations. There Grammy taught Liza needlework and baking; there they hand-washed dishes, drying them with Grammy’s crocheted towels.

Liza still couldn’t believe that Grammy was gone — quickly, as if someone had casually switched off a parlor lamp. Walking through the house, she felt Grammy everywhere. If I open the front door, Grammy will be on the porch, crocheting. When she sees me, she’ll smile…

***

Moving through the quiet rooms, slowly inspecting closets and drawers, Liza found Grammy’s project basket with its neat balls of yarn and metal crochet hooks. She sat in Grammy’s favorite chair, embracing the basket — remembering…aching…

Then she knew what to do. She’d crochet something, just as Grammy used to.

Liza chose the Open Air Shrug pattern. Generous and lacy, it reminded her of all she loved about Grammy. Even the word “shrug” evoked feelings close to her heart — living lightly, without worry. Crocheted from soft Kitchen Cotton, the shrug had a comforting feel. Its color, Blue Ice, was like the noon sky on a cloudless day.

***

“Where’d you get that lovely thing?” Steve asked. It was Friday and he’d just arrived on a train full of passengers escaping summer in the city. Liza picked him up at the station. Steve reached across the car’s front seat, fingering the openwork sleeve. “It’s very charming,” he said. “Nice to touch.’”

“I crocheted it,” she said, “in only a few days. I’m so glad you like it!”

“I do,” Steve said. “It’s kind of retro and kind of modern, all at once. Just like you.”

“Like me?”

“Exactly like you,” he said. “Romantic, whimsical, beautiful you.”

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Selma Moss-Ward is a freelance writer who combines her love of writing and of knitting in her columns, stories, and blog posts. Selma is also an active classical musician and the caretaker of five wonderful pets. She lives with them and her husband in Rhode Island.


A Gift Just Because: Knit Compact Car Blanket

May 25th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. We’re sharing the most recent story here in the blog. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

Because you were there from the start—changing diapers, giving bottles, soothing us while we cried and cried. (Your twin challenges, you’ve always said.)

Because coming home from work, you stooped down with your arms open, and we ran to you, shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” for the world’s biggest hugs. And then you carried us, one twin per arm.

Because you took us camping and taught us about nature. Because you showed us how to play baseball and swim underwater.

Because you said you loved the blobby art we made at school. Because you always read us bedtime stories, and now that we can read ourselves, you still read us stories sometimes—just because…

Because you showed us how to make kites and fly them. Because you took us to the beach on windy days to fly our kites, and afterwards got us ice cream.

Because you like teaching us to fix leaky faucets and squeaky doors, and showing us the best tools for fix-it jobs.

Because you always call us your girls…including Mom.

That’s why we knitted you this blanket. The three of us, taking turns! It’s in your favorite colors. Mom’s stripes are white, Becky’s blue, and Jenny’s green. It’s for keeping in your car—because you spend a lot of time waiting for us in parking lots, while we’re at ballet and piano lessons, soccer practice, the movies, the mall. Because we know it’s often chilly out there, while you wait.

Because you never complain about getting chilly out there.

Because we love you, Daddy.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Selma Moss-Ward is a freelance writer who combines her love of writing and of knitting in her columns, stories, and blog posts. Selma is also an active classical musician and the caretaker of five wonderful pets. She lives with them and her husband in Rhode Island.


Chevrons to Love: the Zig Zag Dress

April 27th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. We’re sharing the most recent story here in the blog. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

Knit Zig Zag DressSamantha, my youngest child, has always been the most protected. I’ve knitted for her steadily all along, believing that my hand-made garments would somehow shield her. Maybe it’s because she was a preemie—her miniature face overwhelmed by the baby bonnets I’d knitted months earlier. But she grew heartily, becoming an energetic, red-haired mop-top with strong lungs, much fiercer than her brothers. She loved to sing and got good parts in school musicals, belting out songs and reveling in the applause.

Now a teen, Samantha’s the classic package of ups and downs—surprising kindnesses, prickly outbursts, sentimental jags—wrapped in creative chaos. She did well in high school, was passionate about Drama Club and Math Team. College acceptances arrived; she agonized over two Midwestern universities, and oddly, all I thought of was what to knit for her to take to Chicago, against whose harsh winters she needed protection.

Then I see this amazing pattern, an adorable, vivacious dress, with chevrons of snappy color angling up and down, and I think, “That’s my beautiful Sammy girl.” I buy the yarn and start. Knitted on a number 9 circular in machine-washable, destruction-proof Heartland, it’s undoubtedly the most enjoyable project I’ve ever tackled. It goes fast. Stitch and color variation make it interesting; imagining Sammy in it is, simply, a pleasure.

Even with all this forethought, I wasn’t ready for her response when I gave her the dress as she left for Freshman Orientation. For once, my irrepressible daughter was speechless, and then, after we hugged she whispered, “Mama, this is the most absolutely perfect thing you’ve ever knitted for me.”

She sent me a photo-text last week. Standing on the Lake Michigan shore, she’s wearing the zig zag dress over a long-sleeved black tee, leggings, and sheepskin boots. She’s got on a scarf, a hat, a sweater, and mittens that I knitted, too, but everything pales beside this dress.

She wrote, “Mama, look, I’m covered in love!”

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Selma Moss-Ward is a freelance writer who combines her love of writing and of knitting in her columns, stories, and blog posts. Selma is also an active classical musician and the caretaker of five wonderful pets. She lives with them and her husband in Rhode Island.


Knitted Toys: Bouncy Bunny Sock Critter

April 20th, 2014

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Writer and avid knitter Selma Moss-Ward joins us for a series of blog posts about becoming a first-time grandmother and knitting toys. Click here to read her previous blog posts.

bouncy-bunny-sill
Maybe because I’m a serious sock knitter, I found this pattern irresistible. Sock construction from cuff to toe cleverly shapes Bouncy Bunny Sock Critter from his neck up. Equally clever is how his legs and body, which are knitted first, flow into the ribbed neckline.

I knitted Bouncy Bunny in a heathery Wool-Ease® color called “Mushroom.” The naturalness of this shade is augmented by subtle black fibers, resembling guard hairs, spun into the yarn.

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Knitted Toys: Little Bunny

April 2nd, 2014

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Writer and avid knitter Selma Moss-Ward joins us for a series of blog posts about becoming a first-time grandmother and knitting toys. Click here to read her previous blog posts.

If you’re a knitter who’d rather work with two needles than with double-points, this “Little Bunny” pattern is for you. Of a size easily grasped by small children, she’d make a wonderful gift for a baby or toddler, and be adorable in an Easter basket.

Little Bunny is knitted flat, and seamed up the back, using the mattress stitch. Ears, arms, legs, and tail are made separately and lightly stuffed before they’re fully seamed and sewn together. The tail, knitted from a scrap of Pound of Love in Antique White, is an ingeniously constructed pouf that’s more durable and shapely than a pompom—worth keeping in mind, as young children can be rough with their toys.

While this pattern specifies Lion Brand’s Superwash Merino Cashmere, any medium weight worsted yarn may be used. The Lion Brand website has appropriate substitutions which you can find here.

When knitting toys, it’s a good idea to work with yarn that’s washable and soft. My preference would be for an acrylic like Vanna’s Choice®, or an acrylic blend, like Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool BlendTM/MC. I also tend to favor natural colors, like grey, brown, and off-white, for animals, but as the Lion Brand pattern photos often show, stuffed toys can also look great in pastels and bright yarns. The choice is really up to you!

When completed, Little Bunny has a direct, folk-art quality that’s unique and appealing. I can imagine her crossing the prairies in a covered wagon as the dear companion of a small pioneer girl.


A Special Delivery: Baby Squares Storyteller Afghan

March 30th, 2014

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This story is from our newsletter called Pattern Journal which brings a warm-hearted, wholesome story to your inbox to read every month. We’re sharing the most recent story here in the blog. If you enjoy it and would like to subscribe, click here.

What do you give an expectant mother who has everything? Kerry had already furnished and decorated the nursery when she first told Jane the exciting news. She also announced her purchases on social media for the benefit of friends and family. It would be hard to find a shower gift that wasn’t a duplicate of something Kerry already owned.

What Kerry couldn’t buy, though, was the afghan Jane had crocheted. Jane had always known she’d make something unique for Kerry’s baby and when she saw the Baby Squares Storyteller Afghan pattern on the Lion Brand website, everything clicked.

The blanket, of creamy yarn crocheted into twenty textured squares, softy back-dropped bright pictures of animals, numbers, flowers, trees, and objects. Illustrating the pictures had been a blast, from choosing images to the actual embroidery. Jane used the adorably bright Bonbons mini-skeins to outline the darling pictures from Lion Brand’s motif library, creating a collage of color.

Nineteen of the afghan’s twenty squares were illustrated. When the baby arrived, Jane would embroider the child’s name and birthdate on the one blank square.

At the baby shower, Kerry opened Jane’s present last. She held the afghan close, and studied the bright pictures. “This is an amazing gift.” Kerry’s voice was filled with emotion. “I’ll show baby these pictures at bedtime, and make up special stories about them. We’ll treasure this…I can’t thank you enough.”

“When the baby arrives, I’ll embroider his or her name in the corner square,” Jane said.

“Oh, I can tell you that now,” Kerry replied. “It’s Cameron.”

“It’s a boy!” someone cried.

“Maybe.”

“What do you mean by ‘maybe’?” Jane asked.

Kerry smiled and said, “That’s the name we chose, for either a boy or girl.”

That evening, Jane embroidered “Cameron” on the corner square. And a week later, she added:

Cameron Elizabeth Bennett
24 March 2014.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Selma Moss-Ward is a freelance writer who combines her love of writing and of knitting in her columns, stories, and blog posts. Selma is also an active classical musician and the caretaker of five wonderful pets. She lives with them and her husband in Rhode Island.

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