Once upon a time, a nice social worker taught me to knit using a couple of pencils. I spent much of junior high school starting little projects in rainbow ombre yarn. During a long, lonely, semester abroad, I even knitted a giant brioche rib alpaca sweater, way too warm to ever wear.
Now everyone knits. And I'm having a baby. Shouldn't I knit again too? I feel like I'm hiding something when people talk about knitting: I still know more about certain kinds of patterned stitches than most people who knit, even though I can't work in ends and have them stick. (A confession: I even made a sloppy little garter stitch scarf back last winter, during my IVF cycle and all that accompanied it. Still haven't worked in the ends, though.)
So, when I was in Weatherwood in June, bored out of my skull and looking forward to a month in a dormitory in British Columbia, I remembered the Hoover blanket pattern I'd somehow run across in Knitty, and I went to the brand new yarn store downtown.
The place seems to function more as a drop-in therapy joint for a certain type of Botoxed matron than a business:
"I just don't know if I'll be able to get through this pattern!"
"You always knit loose, I know, and the pattern says to use a 10, so as long as you're on a 9—well, maybe you should get the 8's too—I'm sure it will be fine."
"This yarn is gorgeous. But do you think these colors are right?"
"Yes, go with the gold sparkle and the 8's. And make sure you come show me when you're done! I bet you'll want to make a stole for your daughter, too. Have you taught her to knit yet?"
All the yarn was gorgeous and outrageously expensive. I wanted something in natural fibers, saturated colors, not too thick, not too fine, and soft, soft, soft. I ended up with three balls of Rowan Wool Cotton in spectacularly mismatched colors: they only had oddly soured shades of green, blue, and purple. Plus lots of cream. Mmmmmmmm, cream.
The Hoover blanket pattern has three variations: solid color, fine stripes in the same two colors on both sides, and one side solid border color, other side solid another color. I started off with a dream of doing a sort of Hanna Andersson-ish color scheme, with, say, border in rich green, one side finely striped in two shades of pink, and the other in two shades of blue. And why such a simple border?
Yes, I can still go ahead and start knitting a week after looking at certain types of patterns and have things come out fine.
The heft and texture are terrific; the stockinette ends up a little more supple than usual because the slipped stitches force the worked stitches a little further apart on the needle.
Full reversibility! Oooooooh. The whole thing lies really, really flat, and working the border color across every other row means the border is firmly attached to the ground. Very stable design.
Eyelets in border: bad idea. (Plus, I can't count.)
The yarn doesn't feel the same after machine washing, but it still feels good. Quite a bit of vertical shrinkage, though.
I can't work in ends to save my life.
Ruffling the border is a bad idea.
I can't handle having three balls of yarn in play at the same time. Nor do I know how to handle vertical borders between different colors. Nor is it fun to have a complex pattern of different things to do on successive rows: six row repeat? Ick.
My purl is still a lot looser than my knit.
Yes, you can do color negative patterns on opposite sides of the double knit, and it's even sort of fun.
Having four strands in play is even worse than having three strands in play.
The way to handle the vertical borders between colors is to keep things as simple as possible.
Lookit that superloose purl! Although washing does seem to help even that out. (And have I mentioned my problems with yarn ends?)
Conclusion Since I wanted the final product to look good and be fun to work, I needed to not exceed my current physical skill level. I stuck with the original fine-stripe version of the pattern: it's solidly constructed, with lovely, easy colorwork (and no purling).