Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Best And Worst of 2005

What was your most satisfying project?
That's a tough call. I think I enjoyed working through the Fantasic Fair Isle Socks more than any other project, but I was more satisfied with the results of the Entrelac Socks. Then again, I felt good about knitting the two hats for my friend with leukemia. And the llama was a romping good time, too, along with the mouse colony.

What was your most unsatisfying project?
The Toe-Up Socks. In fact, they still aren't done. I only finished the one, and that is littered with holes in the toe and at the back of the heel. The pair was complete at one point, but one of them didn't fit propertly, so I had to frog back to the gusset. Who knows if I will ever finish the darned thing.

Which techniques did you learn this year that you liked?
Knitting with 2 circs, stranded knitting, the afterthought heel, the two-ball cast on.

Which techniques did you learn this year that, given the chance, you would avoid?
Entrelac, toe-up socks with gusset increases, cabling, twisted stitches.

What are you looking forward to next year?
All of these great new yarns we added to the stash:
Yarn stash

Specifically, I'm looking forward to finishing Fiesta Feet and knitting something purple and gold for my friend Michelle's birthday, which is in February. I also hope to have Rosemarkie done in time for Meg's birthday in March.

By the way, you could consider this to be a meme if you're into that sort of thing. So feel free to ask yourself the same thing and post on your knitting blog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Coolest Christmas Present

So I knew that Meg had this in the works for awhile now, but I had no idea it would be done before Christmas.

It's Alice Starmore's St. Enda sweater, done out of this beautiful yarn we purchased in Galway. Knit just for me.

Meg will fill you in with the details.

Vine Lace Socks

Pattern: Vine Lace Socks from Socks, Socks, Socks!
Needles: 2 24" US 2 Addi Turbos
Yarn: Brown Sheep Wildfoot sock yarn, color Vinca Minor
Special Technique: Lace
Started: November 19, 2005
Completed: December 24, 2005
Recipient: Mom

I had this yarn in the stash for awhile and wasn't sure what to do with it. It finally occurred to me that Mom absolutely loves this color of blue. I wanted to try my hand again at a lace pattern, so I thought this one would do the trick.

This is first sock I've done where the heel flap was knitted on an odd number of stitches. It's a pretty handy trick if you think about it, because it means you can center a pattern with an odd number of stitches in it across the instep.

I knitted these socks most of the way through, went home for Christmas, had Mom try them on to see how much farther I had to knit, then spent up until Christmas Eve working on them. Nothing like a last minute project to keep me on my toes.

Site Improvements

The blog has undergone mild reconstruction. First of all, I removed the verbose blogroll. It was slow and was causing the page to take awhile to load, even over a good connection. So I removed the long thing from the sidebar and made it a link to BlogLines instead. There's an old adage in computer science that says that you can solve anything with a level of indirection. So there you have it!

Second, and more exciting, Meg has agreed to become a joint blogger (not just a guest blogger). So I renamed the site Two Sock Knitters (if someone has a better idea, I'm open to suggestions). We thought that this might make our blog a bit more unique in the blogosphere. We share most everything else, so why shouldn't we share a blog? I've updated the sidebar links to consolidate the 2005 projects under my list, and now Meg gets her own list.

Stay tuned for the Best and Worst of Knitting in 2005!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maura's monstersocken

I'll admit, I was captivated by the idea of knitting highly fraternal, practically unrelated striped socks from the moment I realized I would have leftovers from most of the socks I knit.
So I made these for a friend of mine who just finished law school and could probably use something frivolous in her life about now. I hope she likes them.
I'll play by The Fool's sock blogging rules while I'm here.

Pattern: k2p2 rib on the cuffs, normal sock foot.
Needles: 2 24" US 1 Addi Turbos
Yarn: Regia, Lana Grossa, some other sock yarns ... eight colors in total
Special Technique: Um, none. Changing colors, if that counts.
Started: December 4, 2005
Completed: December 22, 2005
Recipient: Maura-the-Lawyer

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Simple Sport Socks

Pattern: Entirely made up
Needles: 2 24" US 2 Addi Turbos
Yarn: Lion Brand Magic Stripes, color number Something-or-other
Special Technique: Knitting as fast as humanly possible
Started: December 10, 2005
Completed: December 17, 2005 (early morning... like 4 a.m.)
Recipient: Dad

So it occurred to me that, since my mom is getting a pair of socks for Christmas, my dad might also enjoy a pair of hand-knitted socks. (I mean, who wouldn't?) Unfortunately, this only occurred to me last week, so the knitting demons in my head were telling me to start immediately. As a result, these socks set my personal record for completion time: just under 7 days for 2 socks. Granted, I feel like I cheated a bit, since I used a sport weight wool and size 2 needles. But hey... whatever gets the job done. I knitted absolutely nothing else last week, except a few mice for the colony.

I also had to rip out most of the toe of sock #1 after I completed it, because I ran out of yarn before reaching the toe of sock #2. So I evened up the socks and made the toes from that grey-and-white yarn I used for the argyles.

It turned out pretty well, don't you think?

It's nice to finally be rid of the Lion Brand yarn, as we really weren't sure what we were going to do with it. There's been a lot of stash busting going on this month. Vine Lace was also a project that was applied to yarn I wasn't sure what to make out of, and Meg is working on some Monstersocken (i.e. socks made up from those wee balls of printed yarns that are left over from other projects... kind of like the thrums of the yarn world). Perhaps she will post a picture when she is done.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Moratorium on Rosemarkie is Official

...until after Christmas, of course. Once the day broke when I did not knit a round on it, that was reason enough.

This has given me time to fly through a pair of socks for Dad. I started them Saturday morning and finished the first one last night. I'm about 3 inches into the second one. Knitting on US 2s with sport weight yarn really makes knitting socks a breeze.

I frogged the entrelac washcloth and cancelled the project. Don't worry; it was nothing memorable. No posts, no pictures... just a little entry in my list of unfinished projects. Now it's gone.

The completed projects for 2005 will soon be migrated to its own entry, to make way for 2006's projects. Stay tuned!

'Twas the Week Before Christmas....

With wind, snow and ice,
No creatures were stirring except for two mice.

When mice are astir, they do what mice do,
So when we found them again, we had more than a few.

Pattern: Based on Jo Chandler's catnip mouse
Needles: practically everything from US 2 to US 8
Yarn: Various scraps of Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, KnitPicks Merino Style, Debbie Bliss Wool DK and Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted
Special Technique: stuffing, mattress stitch
Started: December 8, 2005
Completed: December 13, 2005
Recipient: Cats of various friends and family

This was a joint project between Meg and myself. We only felted the one dark-brown mouse, and the rest of them we knit a bit tighter than the pattern called for.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Fiddlin' Fool reasoned....

... that as I occasionally knit a sock or two, I should get posting privileges.
But this is about mice. And baked apples, but only tangentially. When I was a kid, I read some humorous Nora Ephron book about how to play with your food, and one of the tricks they recommended was to peel a baked apple, and then when your mother was distracted, put the naked baked apple into her hand to watch her jump and scream.
When I was 7, a phrase like "naked baked apple" was enough to make me laugh until I couldn't breathe.
That's what I just thought of when the Fool emerged from the bathroom with a catnip mouse he'd been hand-felting in hot water. He put it in my hand and said, "Well, what do you think?"
What I think is that when someone puts something felted and fuzzy and warm in my hand that's oddly still, it doesn't remind me of a funny cat toy -- it reminds me of a recently deceased mouse.
(But it felted up really nicely; we did it with Knit Picks Merino Style.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Knitting Extravaganza

So somehow it occurred to me a few weeks ago that knitting some Christmas presents might be a good idea. The projects have grown from a simple set of lace socks for Mom to 4 or 5 knitted mice and a pair of socks for both parents. My wife is also knitting 4 mice, so we will take a nice picture of the mouse colony when we're done. If there is any time left, I may knit a llama as well. All of this along with my vow to knit a round of the sweater a day has me wondering if I will finish everything. My wife thinks I should put a temporary moratorium on the sweater until after the holidays, but I feel like this would be breaking my vows.

My wife wants to knit one of our dancing friends a fake beard. The construction has us both a bit perplexed. I suppose we could simply knit hooks onto either end and loop it around his ears. Does anyone have any knitting patterns for beards?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Few posts but lots of progress

Well, I've been busy with lots of things, not the least of which has been knitting. Mostly I've been working furiously on the Starmore Vest. I have made an agreement with myself that I will knit at least one round per day, come what may. I spread out the knitting over a few circular needles so that it would be more photogenic. When it was on the one circular, the stitches looked rather bunched, and I was afraid my floats were too tight. Now that I've spread it out, however, I see that this is not the case at all and that it is turning out beautifully.

This checkered band is the steek to which I will eventually take scissors... but eek! Let's not think about that part yet.

The Vine Lace Socks for Mom are coming right along. My strategy is to knit to just short of where I think her toes will be, then finish them while I'm visiting so that I can better gauge how long to make the foot. I've finished the first one and am about to cast on for the second.

The lace turned out pretty well, but this sock is really tight! I think the gusset isn't wide enough. It does stretch well, however, and it's very comfortable once it's on the foot. I'm hoping Mom's ankle bone isn't as high as mine, else this could prove a bit challenging.

In other news, Meg and I got a ball winder. Not only does it wind balls wonderfully, but it doubles as a cat toy. Whenever our tabby hears the sound of the crank, she comes running over to bat at the ball that's getting wound up. Great fun, and who would've thought it would be fun for the whole family?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good news for traveling knitters

The TSA is planning to relax its policies regarding sharp objects tomorrow. I know that I haven't had any difficulty traveling with metal circulars, but hopefully this action will put to rest any lingering fears that your needles will get taken from you at the security checkpoint.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Status Update

I've got a lot of stuff in progress right now. My plan is to finish them in the order listed below, as this combines new projects with outstanding WIP in a way that I think I will be able to tolerate:

  • Vine Lace Socks

  • Argyle Socks

  • Fiesta Feet

  • Cabled and Bobbled Hat

  • Rosemarkie Vest

The Vine Lace Socks (out of Socks 3) are my newest sock project. I started knitting these last week, only to realize that they were going to be way too small around. 54 stitches around at 8 st/inch stockinette doth not a woman's medium make, unless your idea of medium is way smaller than mine. So I'm going to try the same pattern on 2s instead of 1s and see what happens. I hope I figure it out soon, as these are supposed to be a Christmas present for Mom.

Then I have to finish those darn argyles! The duplicate stitch is going to take forever. Maybe if I just do a few stitches a day, I can lick this thing. Next time, I'm just going to do intarsia for the lines, or not knit a black background! Meg said she wanted a pair of argyles after I finished these. Well, maybe after I have these done for awhile I will give them another go.

Lucy Neatby's Fiesta Feet is going to be fun. I have one of the garter cuff bands done for that, and I will work on the second once I finish the Vine Lace Socks. These should be a lot of fun, as I decided to use up a whole bunch of different variegated scrap yarns for the contrasting color. I like Lucy's approach, generally, as she seems to be fairly practical and willing to break the "rules" of sock knitting.

The Cabled and Bobbled Hat has been looming over my head ever since I started doing socks. It would be really swell if I got that completed. I think after this project I'll leave the cabling to Meg and stick with color as my medium of expression. Cables are just too fussy!

Then, of course, the vest. This will be a lot of fun, though it's certainly a long term project. I'm about halfway up the ribbing on the bottom. It's 2x2 ribbing, but since I've been doing the purl stitches with the opposing color, it's not nearly as stretchy as one might expect. I'm hoping that it will still be wide enough. In the worst case scenario, I just knit the button bands slightly wider when I'm done. 3500 stitches down, an innumerable number to go!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Drama of the Vest

On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped by the local yarn store to obtain a 32" size 0 circular needle. I had cast on and knit about 4 rounds of the vest (322 stitches per round) on a 40" needle, then I realized that the needle was simply too large, as I was spending more time futzing with the stitches than I did knitting. I'm happy to report that the 32" needle works great!

Unfortunately, I inadvertently knitted a moebius strip and only realized this after nearly completing 6 rounds! Then today, my computer software got corrupted, so I spent most of the day uninstalling and reinstalling this software... which, actually, worked out well, because I was able to knit during all of the waiting time. So now I'm actually ahead of where I was yesterday at this time, and that's that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Casting On with Two Balls

After knitting up the original swatch for the Alice Starmore's Rosemarkie vest, my wife and I both came to realize that the dark grey for the main color was way too dark. So we dropped back 10 yards and punted, and she found some very nice light-colored lavender yarn that's an alpaca and cotton blend. The new swatch looks great!

This is actually swatch #3. Swatch 1's colors were wrong, and swatch 2's gauge wasn't close enough. After a good washing and blocking, this comes out to just over 7 st/inch. It's supposed to be 7.75 st/inch, but if I knit the smallest size listed, it will work out to be the right size. So this is great news, as this means fewer stitches!

So I started to cast on 304 stitches tonight, and when I got to about stitch 200, I realized that I didn't have nearly enough tail! Big crapola there. Then I remembered reading online somewhere about using two balls of yarn to do a long tail cast on. After a few searches on Google, I remembered that it was The Knitting Geek who instructed me how to do it. After much fiddling with the yarn, I figured it out.

First, tie a loose overhand knot onto the needle for each yarn end and stick the two ends together on the needle, holding them together with your thumb and index finger (if that makes you feel more secure). Pick one of the yarns to be the "tail," then cast on as you would for a long-tail (or variant, like Twisted German). When you've cast on the required number of stitches, cut the "tail" yarn, leaving enough of an end to weave in, and unpick the overhand knots. You have a few more ends to weave in than you normally would, but it's a small price to pay, especially when you consider the hundreds of stitches you might otherwise have to undo (if you miscalculate the tail length).

My wife has dubbed this technique the Male Cast On. Why? Because you need two balls to do it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Newest Endeavor

Balls of yarn for Rosemarkie
What you see is the basis for my swatch of Alice Starmore's Rosemarkie out of the Celtic Collection. This is a vest that I will be knitting for my wife. They are completely different colors than what Starmore calls for, but the Rowan yarns she used have long since been discontinued. Instead, we decided to go with a bunch of Debbie Bliss DK yarns we got at Fine Points in Cleveland. I hope that I can get gauge, as I have heard that getting gauge on her patterns is difficult to near impossible. US 3s don't seem to be cutting it, thus far, so I'll have to drop a size or two.

The start of my lace shawl
This is the blurb of shawl I have knitted so far using Misti lace weight baby alpaca. It looks, erm... funky. I've been told I have to have faith, for all will be well when I block it.

I have finished some of the UFOs that were hanging over my head, but I still have the cabled and bobbled hat that I've had on the needles since the beginning of time. I was going to pick it back up last night after I finished the Harvest Socks, but unfortunately I've lost the wonderful chart I constructed for it. I also can't seem to find the other needle. Sigh. I'm hoping it will turn up at some point. Maybe I wasn't meant to work on it just now.

There is also that toe-up sock that I have to finish. I think I will not do a gusset and will instead do a Sherman Heel at the recommendation of Sockbug. It would be nice to get that out of the way.

I don't know what kind of socks I will cast on next. I was thinking perhaps something lacy for my friend Michelle (who has small feet), or maybe socks for Mom as part of her Christmas gift. I'm more interested in the vest right now, but I really should put something on the needles, especially if I want it to be complete for Christmas.

Harvest Socks

Patterns: A combination of Lucy Neatby's Sideways Garter Stitch Cuff, Socks 3's After Bertha, and the Keyboard Biologist's Afterthought Heel
Needles: 2 24" US 1 Addi Turbos, 1 40" US 0 Addi Turbo
Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Fantasy, Color 4790
Special Technique: Afterthought Heel, Garter Stitch Cuff
Started: October 8, 2005
Completed: November 7, 2005
Recipient: Me

I was taken by these colors quite a bit, so I picked a pattern (actually 3) that would highlight the print. I like Lucy Neatby's idea of letting the color dictate the pattern.

This is my first attempt at an afterthought heel, and I have to admit that I am really impressed with the fit. Most socks I've knit have a tendency to slouch into the shoe, possibly because I don't make long enough heel flaps. I have managed to make things better in more recent socks, but the afterthought heel fits like a charm on the first try! I believe the reason is that the stitches on the back of the heel do not pull downwards like they do on a heel flap sock. Rather there is an even spread of tension emulating from the center of the heel, so the height of your heel bone to the floor doesn't really matter.

Plus, they look really nifty with self-striping yarn!

The way I see my socks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Halloween Costume

In case you were wondering what I dressed up as on Halloween...

I was a giant squid, hooked by my lovely wife, who was one of those Japanese scientists that took a picture of me recently.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Harvest Sock Progress

I've finally taken a few pictures of my Harvest Socks. They were taken right at the time I decided to cut the waste yarn for the afterthought heel.

You can see that the sock was knit in the tube, and the waste yarn was where the two needles are. It was a little nervewracking to cut out the waste yarn for fear I would cut live stitches, but I did manage to avoid it. Whew!

Here's how the sock looks on my foot. Now all I have to do is knit a toe-shaped wedge where the needles are at the heel, and I will have a perfectly fitting heel.

I really love the sideways garter stitch cuff on these socks, particularly because there is no cast on edge. I like the idea of no-beginning-no-end cuffs, for some reason. I'm a little bit afraid I may run out of yarn before I get to finish the toe, so I am currently working on sock #2 until I get to that toe as well, then we'll see how much yarn I have left.

In other news, I finally finished weaving in the ends to my second entrelac sock. This means that I can wear them out in public without fear of being ridiculed for dangly ends hanging out of my socks. The argyles are slow going as well, and I really haven't made any progress on those, except I finished weaving in all the ends. Darn duplicate stitch! The cabled and bobbled hat is still on the needles, though I'm thinking that has to get finished up soon. That project has been around since before I started knitting socks!

I cast on for this lacy shawl yesterday, and it looks really peculiar, and I don't know what I think of it. I keep messing up the stitch count, and it's really slow going. I feel a bit like I'm swimming in a sea of knitting and not really getting anywhere. I think finishing a lot of overhanging projects will help me out, but maybe I'm just sort of in an off month. No real motivation for some reason. I'm sure that will change soon.

Friday, October 21, 2005

This is Getting Out of Hand

I have so much finishing to do, it's absolutely absurd! And I have little inspiration to finish any of them.
  • Weave in ends on the second of the entrelac socks
  • Weave in ends on the second of the argyle socks
  • Weave in ends on the beret
  • Seam my wife's sweater together (she knit it but I told her I'd finish it for her)
  • Finish duplicate stitch on the argyles
By the way, duplicate stitching over black stitches produced from US 1 needles is a huge pain! Going across the argyle diamonds is actually kind of fun, but only because I can see what I'm doing. So I haven't gotten far at all on them, and it's a bit disappointing.

Perhaps I need to dedicate my sit-down time entirely to finishing and save the knitting for when I'm walking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Fun and Fanciful Beret

Pattern: 45 Fun and Fanciful Hats To Knit, Beret #1
Needles: 1 16" Addi Turbo (US 8)
Yarn: KnitPicks Merino style DK: Nutmeg, Hollyberry, Moss
Special Technique: 2 and 3-Stranded Knitting
Started: October 11, 2005
Completed: October 18, 2005
Recipient: Me

What a difference blocking makes! It looked more like a beanie until I blocked it on a dinner plate. The 3-stranded knitting was a real pain, but it was only for a few rows. I also messed up one of the decreases in a rather obvious place. Perhaps I will go over it with duplicate stitch.

Me as model.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

I'm getting tired of trying to do all of these fancy, textury things with self-striping yarn and not having it show up. So on Saturday, I thought I would go more with the flow of the stripe and start a pattern from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet. The pattern is The Mermaid, and these are going to be for me. I kind of object to naming the socks after the pattern, since I'm not female, so I think I will call them Fall Harvest Socks.

I finished up the sideways garter cuff last night and did a neat little garter stitch graft, and the sock is looking quite excellent. I'll post a picture once I have a bit of the ribbing done.

I also cast on for a beret this morning on the train. This will be made from the leftover KnitPicks yarn as well as some Brown Sheep stuff I have kicking around the stash. I'm slightly concerned that the Brown Sheep will be a bit itchy, with the mohair and coarser grade of wool. Does anyone have any experiences with Brown Sheep against the skin?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Twisted Socks

Needles: 2 24" Addi Turbos (US 1)
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, Watercolor
Special Technique: Twisted Stitch
Started: August 31, 2005
Completed: October 7, 2005
Recipient: Wife

These socks look much better in the foot than on the leg because I wasn't trying to do the twisted stitch ribbing. Textured socks and too much color contrast really don't go together.

It was very interesting to see how the two separate skeins ended up looking. The color lengths were quite different between the two, as you can see better in the picture below. So if you're the kind of person who likes your socks to match perfectly, beware the hand-painted yarns! Me, I think it looks pretty nifty.

A different vantage point.

In Spinning

On Thursday night, I attended the Windy City HandSpinning Guild for the first time and got a few pointers on my drop spindling technique. I met some really nice people, including a spinner who knows one of the other band members of Donnybrook. She fiddles as well with a band called The Crossing. That's the great thing about Irish music in Chicago; you're always bumping into someone you've never met before that plays the music. Anyways, my singles look a lot better than they did, so I'm thrilled! Hopefully, I will go back soon.

I'll just keep spinning what I have so far. My wife is making a scarfy thing out of scraps and what I spin. I'll upload a picture when it's complete.

Music to Knit By

This is off-topic for a knit blog, but I feel I need to spread the word, and maybe you can make it music you knit by!

Cape Breton Live is a free, streaming show featuring newly-recorded live music from around Cape Breton Island. The music is absolutely fabulous, and I heartily recommend you give it a listen!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On Heel Stitch...

There seem to be two basic approaches to heel stitch. Most patterns tell you to *slip 1, knit 1* to end on right-side rows, then slip 1, purl to end on wrong-side rows. We'll call this Approach A. Other patterns, however, will tell you to slip 1, knit to end on right-side rows, then *slip 1, purl 1* to end on wrong-side rows. We'll call this Approach B. There are many people who swear up and down that Approach B is much faster than Approach A.

Being someone who likes to try different approaches, I gave it a shot. I found Approach B much slower than Approach A. Why? The unknit yarn kept getting in the way when I would go to slip on the wrong side. Moving it out of the way slowed me down. I knit continental, however, so I don't believe this is a problem if you knit American style. This leads me to believe that one's knitting style determines which is more efficient. Continental-style knitters will be able to go faster with Approach A, whereas American-style knitters will be able to go faster with Approach B.

It's a Freakishly Small World After All

For those of you who don't constantly scan the comments section of my blog (OK, that's all of you), Punk Rock Knitter and boyswillbe spotted me on the Western bus yesterday evening while I was adding duplicate stitch to one of my argyles. One of them runs the You Knit What?? blog to which I subscribe. They were coming back from a local SnB meeting, oddly enough.

I overheard one of them talking about crochet, then something about an "ugly pink cardigan." I realized then that their style reminded me of a YKW post, so I later told my wife that I thought I ran into a YKWer on the bus. I had no idea that one of the bloggers lives in Chicago!

What's even stranger is that I hardly ever take the Western bus. I was getting my hair cut near where I used to live and was on my way up to Lincoln Square to help a friend of mine move some stuff. Had I walked just slightly faster, I would have caught the earlier bus and none of this would've happened.

What I would like to know is how they found me on the web. Perhaps it was through the MenWhoKnit or Midwest Knitters web rings.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tying Up Loose Ends

Well, I finished the second argyle over the weekend. Once I finish weaving in the leftover yarn ends into each sock, they will be ready for duplicate stitch. Weaving in ends has been keeping me busy. I still have some ends to do on the hat, as well as a whole bunch on one of the entrelac socks. This, I believe, is the dark side of color knitting.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Fun and Fanciful Cone Hat

Pattern: 45 Fun and Fanciful Hats To Knit, Cone Hat #4
Needles: 1 16" Addi Turbo (US 8)
Yarn: KnitPicks Merino style DK: Nutmeg, Hollyberry, Moss and Cinnamon
Special Technique: Stranded Knitting
Started: September 23, 2005
Completed: September 30, 2005
Recipient: Friend

This is for my friend who needs a warm hat to protect his head for the impending Chicago winter. The color choices are my own and were made to accomodate my rather guyish tastes in color. I also left the ball off of the top. The wool is incredibly soft! I'm very pleased with the way it turned out; I may knit myself a hat out of the leftovers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rock On!

So my wife came to me the other day expressing frustration about grafting the hood of the Rogue Hooded Pullover together. It turns out that it is essentially a rib with the occasional cable. Having never tried to graft purl stitches together, I knitted up two swatches for grafting practice. I didn't really know how to do this, so I took a guess and reversed the mantra to PKKP. It worked beautifully.

So I started the graft on the Rogue, got part way through it, then realized that the cables needed to be crossed at the graft. This confused me a bit, so I did some online research. After a google search and tracking down a few blogs, I befriended PumpkinMama, and she helped me figure out what I needed to do. It turns out that I simply needed to pre-cross my stitches and graft them in the order they appeared.

So here is what it looks like:

Sorry for the blurry image. It was night and the camera didn't want to focus. Anyways, my wife is thrilled, and I'm pretty pleased that I figured this out. I am a bit disappointed with my purl grafts, though, as they are way too tight. This causes a slight "seam" of tight stitches across the hood. Grr. Grafting is supposed to be invisible. My wife says that doesn't matter, but I wonder if she's just being supportive. I could rip it out, but it's a super pain to rip out grafting. I guess I'll just have to more closely monitor my progress next time.

For my next trick, I will graft a fair isle design down the equator so that it perfectly spells "Happy Knitting."

Monday, September 26, 2005

It's a cone hat!

So the KnitPicks yarn arrived in the mail on Friday. I decided to knit a cone hat for my friend who could really use a warm winter hat. So this is out of 45 Fun and Fanciful Hats to Knit. I originally started out on a 24" needle and almost wrecked my wrists, so I acquired a 16" needle and all is well. Knitting in the round on 1 circ is really nice when doing fair isle, because you don't ever have to worry about shorting a float across needles and causing your garment to pucker.

Here is the yarn. Pretty, no?

Here's what I've done with the hat so far. I changed the colors from bright to "guy" so that he'd like the hat.

I'm having trouble figuring out exactly where these double decreases go. Anna Zilboorg conveniently leaves that information out. It's fairly obvious when in the middle of the round, but what do you do when you get to the next round? Do you decrease across the two, or do you just decrease the one?

In other news, my first large skein is done (the other one doesn't count). My wife says she will knit a scarfy-looking thing out of it.

Not bad, really. It's getting better, no?

The Quest for Matching Yarn

Well, I ran out of black-and-white yarn to finish the second argyle. It was a 50g skein of Lang Jawoll Color 820104, and it was not purchased recently. Therefore, I figured it would be impossible to find the same dye lot and maybe very difficult to find the color. I called around various yarn shops in the neighborhood to see if they sold it. No one did. I had my wife check Tangled Web, our local yarn shop here in Oak Park, and they didn't have it either. Rats. I checked online this morning, and the only place I could find that sold it charged more for the shipping than for the skein!

Rumor had it that the new yarn shop in the South Loop, Loopy Yarns, sold lots of Jawoll, so I high-tailed it down there on my lunch hour to see what they had. Randolph and Columbus (150 N / 300 E) proved to be quite a hike from 8th and State (750 S / 0 E-W), but it was well worth it! I got to meet Vicky, the owner, and it turns out she is also a sock knitter! While she didn't have 820104, she did have 830037, which is so close I can't tell the difference. I didn't have the old yarn with me, unfortunately, so I'm not sure it's an exact match, but I don't think it's going to matter, as it wasn't going to be a perfect match anyways because of the inevitably disparate dye lots. So, for less then $5, I am now the proud owner of more black-and-white Jawoll. She also had some beautiful sock yarns, including the widest selection of solid-colored sock yarn I have ever found in a yarn store. If you're a sock knitter and passing through Chicago, this store is a must visit!

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Funny Thing Happened

When work is slow and it's a Friday, I often go over to the Starbucks in the building next door for some coffee and a bit of knit time. Today, while knitting with my cup on the table, the very rapidly diminishing ball of yarn popped out of my pocket and onto the floor. I left it there because it was easier to unwind. When I got up to leave, I forgot it was on the floor, and I got about 30 feet out of the Starbucks before realizing I was leaving a yarn trail behind me. So I turned around and re-appeared into the Starbucks. It got a lot of laughs from people I've never met before.

Well that sucked

On Wednesday, I just completed turning the heel on the second argyle sock when I realized that I had an odd number of stitches on the heel needle. D'oh! This means I must've dropped a stitch or two somewhere while I wasn't looking. So I backed out the whole heel turn and a few rows of the heel, found the dropped stitches, and now I'm back on track.

With the Addis, I've noticed it's very easy to drop off a stitch without even noticing. They are very slick, which is usually nice, as it lets me go really fast. Occasionally, though, it causes problems. This is more likely to happen when I'm walking my sock. It happened again this morning, though I only lost one stitch and immediately realized it was gone, so the damage wasn't as great.

Since I'm past the "perilous" intarsia phase of the argyle, I can walk it again, so this means that the twisted rib socks have become a secondary project. The argyles will probably go back to secondary socks when I duplicate stitch the lines in, so there is a chance that both pairs on the needles will be done at the same time!

It's finally nice weather for wearing wool socks. This is a good thing, as I was beginning to think that autumn would never come! Also, I have a lot more handmade socks to wear this year than I did last year. I'm especially looking forward to a time when I can wear my entrelac socks out in public for all to see. Maybe I'll wear them at an upcoming band gig with my Birkenstocks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New pictures

The first argyle sock is done. Well, except for the duplicate stitching. I have to figure out how to do that...

The first twisted sock is done. I wasn't really expecting Lorna's Laces to stripe like this. I did get it to pool around the gusset, however. This ribbing wasn't really worth the fuss, though it's easier to see when it's on a foot.

My spindle and my first bit of spun roving. You wouldn't believe the number of times the single has broken and I've had to go back, untwist it, and pray that it would take new fibers being spun into it.

Long time, no post

My goodness! It has been over a week since I last posted. I haven't started anything new, but I have finished the first of the Twisted Rib socks and the first of the argyles. Photos will be coming soon. All of my knitting time is now spent on knitting the second sock for each pair, so that's not terribly exciting from a blog perspective.

Cat Bordhi's technique of knitting the heel stitches with a needle one size smaller worked really well for the argyles. I was extremely hesitant to go down to 56 stitches for the foot, as I was convinced this would be too small. I chose 64 stitches instead, and that was a good call, as the sock is just snug enough.

I've also been spinning a lot. For awhile, the twist was running up into the fiber mass and causing massive knots in the roving. With some practice, I've been able to the draft the fibers fast enough to prevent this from happening... at least most of the time. I still end up with little yarn blurbs at the end of each fiber section, but they are getting smaller.

Upcoming plans include a toque out of 45 Fun and Fanciful Hats To Knit made with some really nice-looking KnitPicks yarn. My wife is going to try her hand at natural dyeing, so she got some undyed wool to mess with as well. I may eventually make a vest out of some of it. There is a really neat-looking Alice Starmore vest I would like to try, as it involves fair isle, which is fun, and steeking, which I haven't tried but sounds nifty.

Who knows? Perhaps I will remain in finishing mode for awhile and finish up the Cabled / Bobbled Hat that's been on the needles since before I started knitting socks, or finish that blasted toe-up sock.

Monday, September 12, 2005

To the Blog Spammers Out There

Get a life, people. Do you honestly think I'm going to keep your comment up simply because you tell me my blog rocks and you compliment me in some vague way? If this keeps up, I'll have to turn word verification on. Sorry to the rest of the people who actually read my blog.

A New Hobby

So we took a trip up to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival over the weekend. Lots of sheep, yarn, and rovings. I decided that this was a good time to try my hand at spinning. So I purchase a drop spindle and a bit of roving. Here is a couple of meters of what I spun:

Not bad for a first try. It's pretty nifty when you think about it. This gets me one step closer towards fulfilling my goal of having a hand in the entire process, from shearing to garment. I guess this means the next step would be carding, then washing raw fleece, then shearing, then... raising my own sheep? Hmm, I think this last one may be optional.

My wife purchased a natural dye starter kit as well, so we've got pretty much all of our bases covered to making custom yarn.

Oh yes, and here is a picture of that frog-colored Opal I was telling you about:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Perils of Intarsia Knitting

Well, on my way walk to the train station yesterday, I was working on my second argyle sock when I tripped a passerby with a dangling yarn strand. He didn't fall or anything, just studder stepped. I apologized quickly and kept walking. I doubt he ever realized what the heck he tripped over.

I nearly tripped myself over a different strand about 5 minutes later. The problem, I think, is with intarsia. There's too many dang strands, and they are dangling all over the place! I've tried to tuck the overly long strands into my pocket, but sometimes they come out. The other problem is that I've left the two diamond colors attached to the balls, which produces two large loops hanging out of both of my pockets. Occasionally they get too large and someone will step in one of the loops. So I think I need to either cut the yarn from the balls or consider these socks too perilous to walk. I will probably end up walking the twisty sock instead.

I do enjoy walking my socks, especially now that my walk is considerably longer. The traffic lights are timed almost perfectly for my stride while knitting, so once I get in the "green light" groove, I can walk my knitting with very little stopping. And there is something kind of cool about working up a sweat while knitting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Over the weekend, I was able to complete the first of the argyle socks. This doesn't include the little white lines that will be duplicate stitched, but I figure that shouldn't take too long.

I'm taking the Metra to work for this month and next instead of the L. It is slightly cheaper, the same amount of commuting time, but a longer walk. The Metra mainly services the suburbs, whereas the L services mainly the city. Oak Park is blessed with both Metra and L service, so we get a choice. Since it's so nice outside this month and next, I opted for the long walk. I feel even more productive with my knitting / walking combination, possibly because I am getting into a better groove with the longer walk. This morning, for instance, I casted on for the second argyle and completed 7 rounds of ribbing before I arrived at work.

The weekend brought both my wife and I to various excursions. The first was to Geneva for the Fox Falley Folk Festival. We stopped in a yarn shop where I proceeded to buy a 100g skein of Opal handpaint, what I would call frog-colored yarn (dark to iridescent green). Let's just hope that the frog color doesn't mean it will have to be frogged! My wife said she will knit me a pair out of the skein. Whoopee!

We attempted to stop in at the yarn shop in Long Grove on Labor Day, but even yarn store owners need a vacation once in awhile, so there was no luck to be had for us. It's too bad, really, because there was a bit Irish festival that day, and they probably could have done a lot of business. It was a fun festival, nevertheless. We got paid in merchandise instead of cash, which is a real hoot! We ended up taking 11 new CDs home with us.

The entrelac pattern is completed and mailed off, for those who are curious. If you want it and don't have it already, leave me your e-mail address and I'll send it along.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A New Sock.... maybe

So I started a new sock. It's a twisted stitch pattern I got out of Barbara Walker 2, and I'm knitting it up with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn. I've done a few repetitions of the pattern, and the problem is that it doesn't look anything like what it's supposed to look like. I thought the problem might be in the variegation, so I tested out a separate sample using a solid color. It still looks really wrong. So... I don't know. Perhaps I'm not knitting correctly or something. I might scrap the sock, or I might keep it and change pattern somewhere, or maybe I'll just knit the whole thing like this and hope it doesn't look too strange.

Taking a break from this sock has given me a bit of time to continue on the heel and foot of my argyle sock. I have decided to employ Cat Bordhi's suggestion to use a smaller needle for the heel and sole stitches. She swears that it doesn't make the sock smaller, so that must mean it stretches the sock out somewhat in both directions.

So for the argyle sock, I needed an Addi 1 and an Addi 2. Since I didn't want to give up my Lorna's Laces sock just yet, I decided to do the new LL sock on an Addi 1 using the Magic Loop technique, thus freeing up a needle. It's only a 24" needle, which is shorter than recommended, but it has given me no trouble. I could use a slightly longer needle, but certainly 24" is enough to get by.

In other news, I finished the Entrelac Sock pattern and submitted it to MenKnit for their upcoming magazine. Yes, this means that I owe some of you the pattern. Don't worry, as I will be e-mailing it out within a couple of days.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Bowtie Socks

Pattern: None
Needles: 2 24" Addi Turbos (US 1)
Yarn: Sockotta
Techniques: Knitting into the stitch below, Balbriggan heel
Started: August 10, 2005
Completed: August 27, 2005
Recipient: Me

I knit these for my feet because I realized I didn't own any pairs of hand-knit cotton socks. I also really liked the color. I based the bowties off of something I found in Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Stitches (submitted by a lady in Oak Park!). I adapted it for round knitting and so that it would work well in a sock. Unfortunately, it's really hard to see the bowties in the finished product, but it doesn't bother me so much, as it gave my hands something new to figure out!

Here's a camera angle I could never pull off by myself. Many thanks to my wife for this one! These heels are what Nancy Bush calls Balbriggan heels in Folk Socks. It requires grafting when you turn the heel, so I imagine that's why many folks don't bother. It gives a cool effect with this yarn, though. I would definitely apply it to a self-striping project in the future.

Drunken Rib Socks

These were a pair I knit for a friend as part of a barter. He built me a wooden footboard I could go ticky-tack on when I play fiddle (it's a Quebecois thing), and in turn I knitted him these socks. It features a few degrees of drunken ribbing (10 stitch offset on the leg, 2 stitch offset on the foot), done up in a Regia stripe on Addi 1s. They feature the band heel from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks, which is a heel shaping that results in no gusset stitches. The feet were originally knitted a little too small for the recipient, so I had to back them out and correct it.

I did these both at the same time from different ends of the same ball of yarn. It actually worked quite well, though the feet seemed to take forever. I guess I prefer mixing up the techniques when I do one sock at a time over two socks at once.

Here's the profile shot.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Channel Island Cast On

I decided for my next pair I would start with a Channel Island Cast On. "Why?" my wife inquired. Well, I hadn't done it before, it looks kind of neat, and most importantly I was up for a challenge. So I opened up Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet while watching a few episodes of Northern Exposure and went at it. Two hours later, I still was without success. A little frustrated (but not put off), I went online to see what I could find. Several guides and a few false starts later, I finally got it. This guide was the only one which really helped me. Some of the sites wanted me to put a doubled slip knot onto the loop, but this proved unnecessary.

Since I generally only allow myself to have three pairs of socks going at once, you may be wondering why I was casting on for a new pair. Well, both the Barter Socks and the Bowtie Socks are complete! I will post pictures tomorrow, since it's 2:30 a.m. now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bowtie Socks Update

Well, here is the first bowtie sock that I finished on the plane. I like the colors quite a bit and am looking forward to wearing these soon.

The heel is an adaptation of the Balbriggan Heel from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks book. It's one of those strange heels that requires grafting at the end. Since the heel ends with no stitches left on the heel needle, the gusset seam runs all the way around the foot. Therefore, the heel is putting weight on a seam. I think the heel looks a bit nobbly, but this does disappear when worn.

Another angle.

The colorway the Balbriggan Heel produces is quite stunning with this self-striping yarn. Now I just wish that those darn bowties showed up better!

I'm not sure I would do a Balbriggan Heel again, but it certainly was an interesting endeavor. I also have to stop contorting my body in positions it would rather not find itself in order to take pictures of my feet!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Vacation and progress

Well, I'm finally back from a week-long vacation in the Pacific Northwest. It all started with Stitches Midwest on Friday afternoon here in Rosemont, which was quite an experience! There were a whole bunch of vendors from across the country selling just about anything and everything related to knitting and crocheting. We picked up a whole bunch of beautiful sock yarn as well as a beautiful African basket to put it all in!

That same day, we drove down to Bloomington, Indiana for Sugar Hill 2005, put on by the Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group. Sugar Hill is one of our favorite weekends because it is where we first started playing for contra dances. This year, we played a hour-long set on Friday night, and then we played another because no one had signed up for the next slot. Our fiddler friend Martha (from Stringdancer) was there and joined us on the second set. It was a great time, and we were the hit of the evening! We poked around Bloomington and Nashville on Saturday, then danced a bit Saturday evening before retiring for the 6 AM drive back to Chicago the next morning.

We managed to get back to Chicago in time to catch a cab for a noon flight out to Seattle. We had a delicious seafood dinner at Elliott's followed by a nice walk around downtown. The next morning, we headed over to the Pike Place Market to buy some produce, including some of the most delicious peaches I've ever tasted. We then drove down to Portland, had lunch with my second cousin in Hillsboro, and eventually found ourselves in Rockaway Beach on the coast, where we spent the rest of the week with friends, their two kids, and both sets of grandparents. We played games, hiked, went skim-boarding, canoed, and made s'mores, among other things. Our excursions included a trip to Tillamook for ice cream and dinner supplies (wild coho salmon was only $7 a pound!), and a drive up to Cannon Beach (for the quilt and yarn stores).

We drove back to Portland on Friday, where we took lots of pictures at the Washington Park Rose Garden, had a "pirate" dinner at Salvador Molly's, and spent the evening at historic Edgefield playing cribbage and drinking too much. On Saturday, we checked out Lint, a yarn shop in the Pearl district. It was a very nice yarn store, and I give special kudos to them for selling some solid-colored sock yarn, which is almost impossible to find without going online.

The rest of Saturday included another trip to Pike Place Market (where we picked up some salmon and crabs for Sunday's dinner back in Chicago), and contra dancing in Tacoma. It was a very nice dance, and I was impressed at the average dancing caliber and the high number of youth there. Sunday morning, we reached the airport by 4:45 AM. I've never seen so many people at an airport so early! We eventually got back and had that salmon and crab dinner at a friend's house.

Over vacation, I finished the barter socks! They are pending trial by the wearer-to-be to ensure snugness, then I will take the pictures. I also got the first of the bowtie socks completed and am now plowing through the second. Pictures to come for those, too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Bowtie Socks

Okay, so I'm at the boring part of a bunch of projects. The barter socks are on the foot, and the intarsia section is done on the first argyle. Sometimes you just want to knit something interesting. So my wife handed me the second Barbara Walker's Stitch Treasury (original edition) and suggested I make up a pattern from there.

So I found a nice pattern out of there that produces little bowties. I decided to try this out on some manly-looking Sockotta, and, as I don't own any hand-knit cotton socks yet, I thought it would be nice to wear them when I finish. The pattern involves knitting into the stitch below. It took me a while to figure out that this actually meant knitting into both the stitch below and the top one. It was a few rows before I realized that the big, ugly ladder hanging off the front wasn't actually correct. I backed those out and am now on the right path.

It wasn't until I started knitting that I noticed that the pattern out of the book was submitted by a lady from Oak Park, where I am currently living. It's a small world after all! I wonder if she still lives here.

Ahhh, much better!

Some of you may have noticed the Cabled and Bobbled Hat on my unfinished project list. Well, this got put on the back burner back at the beginning of the year for several reasons. The first was that I started getting massively into socks. The second was that the directions were starting to drive me batty! It is a fiber trends pattern that is broken up into several fragments, which looks essentially like this:

Pattern A:
Row 1: blah
Row 16: blah

Pattern B:
Row 1: blah
Row 16: blah

Row 1 (WS): p5, work Pattern B over 13 stitches, k4, work Pattern A over 7 stitches, p5.
Row 2: k5, work Pattern A over 7 stitches, k4, work Pattern B over 13 stitches, k5.
Row 4: blah

Repeat rows 1-4 3 more times (16 rows each), then repeat the 16-row pattern 5 more times.

Not only was I getting frustrated from my eyes bouncing back and forth between sections on every row, I was losing tons of time. Additionally, I was counting my stitches heavily, since following pattern directions like this gives me little sense of how the stitches relate to one another, which increases my chances for mistakes.

I took about an hour last night and converted the whole thing to a chart using universal symbols. I am now amazingly fast and much less frustrated. I should've done this sooner!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intarsia tips

I'm actually almost done with the intarsia portion of this sock! It's been quite an experience. Since I realized that I learned how to do intarsia using only Internet resources, I feel like I should list a few tips that I think could be very helpful to the beginning intarsia person.

  • Use long strands of yarn instead of bobbins. While I didn't use bobbins to compare techniques, I could see why they would function only to get in the way. Being able to pull the working yarn through the tangled dangle below has proven to be invaluable countless numbers of times.
  • Despite what some people think, you can do intarsia-in-the-round, and I would say that it is almost as easy as doing flat intarsia. You also have the added advantage of a much flatter seam, and only a seam where the intarsia work is (instead of down the entire garment).
  • You only have to cut strands of yarn for every other color change. I suppose this depends on your project, but this works perfectly for the argyles. They have color progression like this: black, orange, black, blue, black. So the orange and blue are isolated and don't ever need to be cut. You could just leave them on the ball and pull the black ends around them without fear of tangling. Granted, if you had a much more complex intarsia piece, this might not be feasible!
  • The technique of the "old" strand going over the "new" strand when you switch colors only seems to make sense half the time. If you're confused, just drop both yarns, lift up the old, and bring the new one under it. I'm not even sure if it makes a difference in these cases, but it is best to be consistent, as this gets you into good habits.
  • If you're doing intarsia-in-the-round, counting as you knit helps to make sure you have the right number of stitches. It's easy to forget to increase at the beginning of the round or decrease at the end (or accidentally increase between a stitch which had two yarns - where I was joining up a new strand).
  • If part of the pattern looks really delicate or intricate, forget about it for now. Just knit background color and duplicate stitch it in later. The Xs in my argyles will be duplicate stitched when I'm done with the sock.
  • Intarsia is slow, so understand this up front and you won't be disappointed in your rate of progress. It does seem to be getting faster now that I've done it for a bit, but I get the feeling that it's still going to be considerably slower than plain old knitting, or even stranded knitting for that matter.

That's all I can think of for now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Argyle Socks Update

Well, I finished the first diamonds, and I'm really happy with the way it's turning out.

Here you can see a complete diamond.

The sock will look more like this from the front.

So, yeah. Intarsia is a bit fussy, and it's definitely a bit slow, but it's actually kind of fun. My wife is really impressed with how they are turning out and now wants me to knit her a pair. I figure she can pick out the yarn at Stitches Midwest, which is in just over a week's time!

It's hot here, and I just got back from my 6 A.M. group cycle class. Ergh. At work today, we're having some weird outing with my boss's boss's team over at Navy Pier. I think I was supposed to bring my family or something, but, well... that didn't happen. Anyways, it's an excuse to get out of the office for a bit.