But knitting doesn't always go to plan.
For the red hat, I planned fair-isle, mixing some red 4ply soft with opal uni in a chocolate brown. I designed a chart, cast on at Gatwick airport and, as the plane made its way to the other side of the Atlantic, got about half way through. But as we landed, I decided I didn't like colour combination in fair-isle, and frogged the lot (the brown yarn and chart pattern became these mittens). Stranded in DC with limited internet and a whole ocean away from my pattern book collection (not to mention needles), I was a bit stuck for what to do. I had a 3.25mm circular with me to make the scarf, so did a gauge swatch with the yarn held double, trying out the cable pattern I could do from memory (I'd just used it in this sock).
It worked pretty well, and the double-held soft yarn made for a lovely warm and squishy hat. I'm particularly proud of the the in-pattern crown decreases. I don't know if I could write out the pattern, as the whole project was pretty free-form, but I'll maybe have a go if I have time before Christmas.
This half of the project completed, I cast-on for a lace scarf. Swallowtail in a soysilk laceweight which I planned to dye purple once knitted-up. I worked out how to add pattern repeats to make it big enough, and got most of the way through. But the p5tog's in the boarder were my undoing. I mis-placed one (knitting lace while gossiping...) so frogged a few rows back to re-do them. But the p5tog's acted as a knot, and I literally had to rip it apart, cutting the yarn to bits. As I did this, a load more unravelled in a way I couldn't possible pick back up (and I'm pretty good at using a crochet hook to re-knit a few rows down). More ripping. So much that I lost more yarn than I could spare - I wasn't going to have enough left to re-knit the ripped bit and finish the thing.
Bye bye soy-swallowtail. You can see a picture here. It is the only thing I've knitted that has actually ended up in the bin.
By then I'd got to California, so visited Artfibers in San Francisco hoping to find something special enough to make a replacement with. What a shop! They have the most beautiful, unusual yarn. They also have mini-skeins you can knit with to see if you like it and try out stitch patterns. There are examples of swatches and pictures of finished pieces hanging up all over the place for inspiration. It has a really relaxed and friendly environment too, yet also extremely professional (photos here and here). As soon as I cast on with their Alfabeto, I knew it was perfect - so warm and silky, yet also very light. It has a very dark purple base, almost an oily black, with bits of blue, pink and red shot through (I couldn't get a photo which did it justice). It's 76% silk, 19% mohair, 5% wool - gorgeous stuff.
As a variegated yarn, I decided I'd go for a relatively simple garter-stitch based seafoam stitch, which also gives it a nice drape. It took a bus trip from San Francisco to LA, the plane from LAX to JFK and several commutes to and from work once I was home to finish, but I got it done in time for the birthday itself. I'm really pleased with it, though I think the credit goes largely to Artfibers for such delicious yarn.
So, neither piece was quite what I was planning, and all improvised on the road. But I was pretty pleased with it in the end.