A Love Letter to Lithuania

Hand in hand
Hand in hand

I have been working on a world tour of sock patterns. An ebook or something to honor places that I love. The only design I've fully finished is Šiauliai (pronounced "show-lay"), which is my tribute to Lithuania. I planned to publish these the patterns all together, but with all the goings on in the region, I couldn't wait to express my love for this oft-overlooked corner of Europe.

Like a first love, the small Baltic country has secured a place in my heart.

Lithuania was the first country I ever visited when I signed up for a study abroad program. I was 19 years old and had only traveled more than 3 hours from Nebraska through reading the 1991 edition of the World Book Encyclopedias. My cluelessness knew no limits.

I was very into World War II in elementary and high school. I thought I knew the stories - Anne Frank, Number the Stars, atom bombs and birth defects. I had studied the plight of man, and it had ended in 1944 thanks to America, except for children starving in Africa and the rainforest being cut down but Bono was going to take care of that.

Yep. Clueless.

I can pinpoint the moment when my youthful ignorance shattered. We'd just gone up the famous television tower. I had caviar in a rotating restaurant and was able to see Belarus. It was an incredibly exotic experience for a Nebraska farm girl.

At the bottom of the tower, our guide, a woman of about 30, pointed to the memorial at the base of the tower and told us about how she had stood there in the dead of winter and stared down Soviet tanks. How her friends had been hurt. How 14 people had died. How people took shifts for days to stand there and in front of parliament to keep them out of Soviet hands. How everyone standing there knew it could cost not only their lives but that of their families. And yet. There they were, the first of Soviet Republic to break free.

And this had happened just half my life ago to this woman who was not much older than me, not in black and white in my grandparent's youth. My brain short circuited from the cognitive dissidence.

Šiauliai Socks

Pronounced show-lay

So, the socks -

They are knit toe-up with a yo-yo heel with a cable going up the outside of each foot. You can download it for free now, but once I do plan to make this a paid pattern to go in a ebook set. At that point, it will be paid.

They borrow their name from the village near the Hill of Crosses. To me, this hill encapsulates the stubborn bravery and indelible spirit of the Lithuanian people. Crosses were placed here to remember those who had died or gone missing during the Soviet era, much to the annoyance of the Soviet officials who tried to bulldoze it at least three times, only to see the crosses pop back up.

Three stripes up the back of the sock for each time the hill was rebuilt, and a cable of linked hands to honor those who, in standing for independence, risked becoming represented by one of those crosses.
Three stripes up the back of the sock for each time the hill was rebuilt, and a cable of linked hands to honor those who, in standing for independence, risked becoming represented by one of those crosses.

They feature a cable meant to represent the Baltic Way, a 2 million plus human chain stretching nearly 400 miles across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Also, since this is a fairly dour post, Lithuania also has wonderful sausages, pastries, mittens and embroidery (for realz, yo), and my absolute favorite depiction of Jesus, overwhelmed and worn down by the woes of the world. Man, I hope I make it back there.

Set. Match.

I am so fancy!
I am so fancy!

I finally have something that matches. Remember the gloves I finished a few weeks ago? They are officially a part of a set now.

This hat was based off the mitten pattern - Eugenia’s Mitts designed by Mollie Woodworth. I've included women's (20") and men's (22") sizes. The cables pull the fabric in quite a bit and make it less stretchy, so a good fit is important with this one. In the pic, I'm actually wearing the woman's size, though I have a gigantic, man-sized head. It works, but it's definitely snug due to the lack of stretch.

You can grab the hat pattern for free on its Ravelry page.

Cables, cables, cables, cables.
Cables, cables, cables, cables.

My high energy binge on fast knits seems to be petering out, thank goodness. I have a small mountain of washclothes. Well, technically I'm cheating, because if I make a swatch of a stitch for 9-stitches.com (the online stitch dictionary I'm working on) out of cotton, BOOM! Washcloth. Pretty excited about the double duty. Triple, if you count that many of these washcloths will be Christmas presents. I get irrationally happy when things are efficient.

I also finished a Stripe Study Shawl. I am so over garter stitch.

Ready for studying.
Ready for studying.

Pretty happy with how this turned out. I subbed a skein each of Hazelknit's DK (in this case, Lichen and Jam Session) instead of fingering weight, so I was scared it'd end up too small. It's the perfect size, and man, Wendee at Hazel Knits rocks at color. Bright, semi-solid colors on a strong, plied wool base, and she's here in Seattle. That's not going to bankrupt me at all.

This shawl has served me well as I've been racking up college classes on the free MOOC sites - coursera.com and edx.org. I'm learning about the history of China, food science, ethics, and behavioral economics without all the pesky paper writing requirements. I love the internet.

Marhaban Socks

I have a new sock pattern.

Why this pattern is great:

  • Toe up and cuff down instructions
  • Charts and written instructions
  • Fast knit that doesn't use much yarn
  • Simple lace stitch is easy to remember
  • Great for showing off yarns with fancy dye jobs
  • It's 25% off until November 15th!
Delightful in both solid and colorful yarns.
Delightful in both solid and colorful yarns.

I've actually been sitting on this pattern for a while. Dragging my well-adorned feet at every point of the design process. Not because the pattern isn't lovely - it is - or because I don't like them - I do - but because I had no idea what I would say in this blog post.

I'm donating the sales from this pattern through the month of November to the List Project, and I'm struggling to find the words to express how shameful it is to me that there is a need for the List Project. They work to help Iraqi translators get visa in order to relocate their families to the US. This American Life did a story on them a while back, and you can donate to them directly if knitting socks isn't your thing.

Why do they need to leave Iraq? Because, by virtue of helping Americans, they and their families are now targets for assassination. So, why do people whose lives are at risk due to helping American soldiers in a war zone need help getting American visas?

sigh

Bi-partisan efforts have been made. Everyone agrees. And yet...

sigh

So, I made a sock pattern and named it after an Arabic greeting. Futile perhaps, but maybe its sales can help an ally to hear "MarHaban" with two feet on safe, American soil.

Heels
Heels

Blue Star Beanie Pattern

Today was the pinnacle of Fall. After a walk to the coffee shop under trees ablaze in orange and yellow, there was football and knitting. Acorn squash and apple cider are on the menu for dinner. Politicians are slipping flyers in the door. I might make an apple crisp real quick just to make sure that maximum autumn saturation has been obtained.

Quick! Add pumpkin to something!
Quick! Add pumpkin to something!

The 50 degree weather was the perfect opportunity for the fella to take his new hat on it's maiden journey. It's knit with just under half a skein of fingering weight yarn, which makes it just warm enough for these days when it's just a bit too cold to go hatless, but too warm for the winter hats.

Not feminine yet not boring to make. What more could you ask for in a dude's hat?
Not feminine yet not boring to make. What more could you ask for in a dude's hat?

Named for the restaurant where my knitting group meets, Blue Star is comprised of twisted stitches. It is deceptively stretchy for the amount of texture  going on. The twisted stitches are also quick to work if you get the hang of cabling without a cable needle.

He's cute.
He's cute.

Bold Colors

DSC_04851.jpg

The most exciting time of the year for any nerdy kid is the week before school starts. They spend the days unloading their backpack, loving looking at all school supplies, and reorganizing their crayon box. They reflect on the big questions - Dolphin folders are clearly the best for Science, but should rainbow unicorns be for Math or Social Studies? Oh, kids don't do that? No one else gets that excited about organizing? Angry Birds is ruining our youth.

One of the best things was the brand new packs of crayons and markers. The school supply list only required the basic marker set, but with enough whining  Mom could be swayed to get a second set of markers. Bold colors. The best freaking colors on the planet - raspberry, emerald, azure, goldenrod. You had better recognize, kids who picked on me. There's a new pack of markers in town.

BOLD COLORS!

(at this point, you might have picked up on a few of the factors that contributed to the teasing)

I didn't realize until halfway through this quilt that I had borrowed my 8-year old self's favorite color pallet. I'm sure the next niece, Izzabella, will also love it, because the kids want to be just like yours truly.

Bold Colors Quilt

When it's done, the quilt looks like this.

Finished size: 46″ square

Materials

  • 1.75 yards white background fabric (44" quilters cotton)
  •  1/3 yard each of four different color fabrics (44" quilters cotton)
  • 50" piece of batting
  • 1.5 yards 56" wide backing fabric
  • 3/8 yard binding fabric
  • Sewing thread and other notions

Making the Hourglass Blocks

This tutorial shows you how to make these as fast and easily as possible.

Cut

  • From each of the colored fabrics cut seven 5.5" squares (one strip 5.5" x width of fabric, cut to seven 5.5" squares)
  • From the white, cut twenty-eight 5.5" squares (four strips 5.5" x width of fabric, each cut to seven 5.5" squares)

Follow the linked tutorial to make 56 hourglass blocks. This is 2 more than you will ultimately need. Be sure to square them up to 4.5". This will cut out a lot of bulk and help your corners match up better.

Center square

From the white, cut one 7" square (A), one 4" square (B), and sixteen 5" squares (C). Cut each square in half on the angle.

Layout your central block starting with the hourglass blocks, making sure to turn them so that colored edges touch white edges. The blocks are placed on an angle with the white triangles filling in the edges to make it square.

There are nine rows of hourglass blocks. Starting in the lower left, the rows are:

  • 2 blocks
  • 4 blocks
  • 6 blocks
  • 8 blocks
  • 10 blocks
  • 8 blocks
  • 6 blocks
  • 4 blocks
  • 2 blocks

Triangles A go in the lower left and upper right. Triangles B in the upper left and lower right. Triangles C fill in the sides.

Sew each column of blocks together. Press the seams, and then sew the strips together to create the square. I recommend leaving the blocks laying out on the floor as you do this, because it can be easy to get a triangle rotated incorrectly.

Press the seams like crazy.

Add a white border

From the white, cut two 3.5" x 32" strips and two 3.5" x 38" strips.

Sew the shorter strips to the top and bottom. Press seams.

Sew the longer strips to the sides.

Press seams.

1" squares border

This is where you risk becoming a crazy person. A bunch of 1" blocks sounds like it wouldn't be that bad, but you might go nuts halfway through. Fair warning.

This angle make the border look like it goes on forever? What a coincidence.

Cut 1.5" x length of the fabric

  • 12 from the white fabric
  • 3 from each of the colored fabrics

Sew a white strip to each of the colored strips. Press the seams toward the color.

Sew each of these strips lengthwise to another one, so that you have six pieces of fabric that are striped color - white - different color - white.

Press them very well.

Cut the strips down to 1.5" x 5" rectangles.

Sewing along the 5" side, join 38 of these into a long strip. Do your best to line up seams. Be sure that the blocks always alternate white - color - white - color. Repeat until you have four total border pieces.

Sew an hourglass block to each end of two of these border pieces. Press the borders like crazy.

Pin the borders without the hourglass ends to the top and bottom of the quilt. Sew them on and press. Sew the remaining borders to the other side.

Press the whole quilt top well.

Back, bind and quilt.

I quilted the hourglasses like this.