Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Travel knitting: a scarf, a shawl, and a hat (or 3)

Planning knitting for a trip can be a challenge. It can't be big and bulky (like an afghan or most sweaters); it has to be interesting enough to keep you from getting bored, and it can't be so complicated that it is hard to concentrate in adverse conditions like airplanes and noisy airports.

For our recent trip to South America I settled on the Kiri Shawl plus a scarf and a hat. The Kiri was a good choice pattern-wise, though my color choice – black – was probably not the wisest choice for the dim lighting of airplanes and hotel rooms. I really need a black shawl, which is why I decided on this yarn for this pattern, and the Kiri seemed like a good straight-forward design for something in a dark color, where a lot of detail would be lost. The yarn was lace-weight Zephyr, doubled. (I wound a ball off the cone, then wound yarn from the ball together with yarn from the cone. At home, I probably would have just knit with the ball and the cone without bothering to wind them together.)

Sometimes the yarn just doesn't want to be knitted into a particular pattern. I had a few balls of Filatura di Crosa 127 Print that I thought of using for a scarf in a feather-and-fan pattern, but it just wasn't working. There was lots of time on a 12-hour flight to experiment, sleep not being an option, so there was much frogging and re-knitting before I settled on a simple rectangle with yarnovers every eight rows. With the yarn that was left I was able to make two hats, the Floppy Brim Hat me and a simple ribbed cap for R. (His hat is photo-less since it is temporarily MIA.)

The other project for this trip was the North Star Tam from Arctic Lace. In the absence of quiviut yarn, I used some Yubina Laceweight Cashmere, doubled. There was a little problem with gauge, and being away from home I didn't have a wide variety of needles or other resources, so I just plugged away and then made some modifications at the end. The shape of the resulting hat isn't really a tam, but it is soft and warm and covers the ears. There was still time (and yarn) to do the scarf, but I got through two pattern repeats before deciding that I didn't love it enough to knit all those stitches in such fine yarn, so the scarf is now a permanent UFO and will eventually be frogged.

Other knitters like to work on socks while travelling, but I always seem to be at the complicated part (the heel), where I have to pay close attention to the instructions. Somehow it take more effort planning the knitting for a trip than the wardrobe. What I learned this time is that one project isn't enough... If it doesn't work out, it would be terrible to be stranded on an airplane/ship/tour with nothing to knit!

Last week I had to make an emergency trip to Florida. The flight was 3 hours each way, plus the requisite 2 hours in the airport for the departing and returning flights, so even if I had no other time to knit, there would be a solid 10 hours of knitting. There was some Colourmart cashmere in my stash left over from the oh-so-aggravating Sprinkle Lace Cardigan, and I chose the Falling Water Scarf as a gift for a friend. It is a beautiful but simple lace pattern, and it worked well in the cashmere. It was almost finished by the time I got home. This pattern is definitely a keeper... in the right yarn it would work for either a woman or a man.

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