Category Archives: socks

You would be wrong.

Punctuated Ribs Sock Top You might think, after working a month and a half on preparing a sock knitting presentation for my spinning guild, I’d be sick of sock knitting – almost, but you would be wrong. I promised mom a pair of birthday socks, and before I headed off into the wild blue knitting yonder to cast on hats and sweater and non-socks, I needed to finish a labor of love. These are the Punctuated Rib Socks from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, a book I’ve now knit two patterns from (a record!). The yarn is Aslan Trends Santa Fe, a soft, economical sock yarn that I would call the “poor man’s Koigu” if I were feeling snarky, but I’m not. Nice to knit with, my only complaint is that I needed to swipe my one and only Addi size 1 out of the Fionn sweater I’m working on. Added incentive to finish the socks, since I found out after just a few rows of the sweater on straights that I am no longer a lover of straight needles unless they are DPNs. See the pair here. I feel like I’m definitely going through a dark yarn phase, which is inconvenient when your knit night is in a bar.

For the opposite of dark yarn, I present these Maine Morning Mitts Maine Morning Mitts, knit out of long-stashed Kureyon intended for a Lizard Ridge afghan. I think I held off making these because I was concerned I couldn’t get two mitts out of one skein – I am here to tell the Internet you can make two Maine Morning Mitts with just 100 yards of worsted weight yarn (I did shorten the cuffs a bit, but I’m confident even the originals are one-skeiners). These were quick and fun and they knit up in a week, satisfying my raging case of startitis. They also served as a convenient distraction from the hooligans who shot my new car with a BB gun while the Knit One Purl Too crew was out to dinner in a perfectly nice Cleveland suburb. At least the insurance adjuster thought the mitts were nice, and everything’s back to normal now. Frankly I cannot believe that I drove my new car to Chicago and all over the Windy City without a scratch (the Dan Ryan! the Ike!), then I come home and some loser tries to make my Honda Fit into a hoopty.

Quincy Quade Quentin In my righteous indignation over HooptyGate I have not one, not two, but three finished objects for you – this weekend, I stuffed and sewed a Quincy Quade Quentin monster, and I have to say that while it was a lot of work because I am not a sewer, I am charmed. I’m also pretty proud that he looks suitably monster-y (with the help of Knit One Purl Too’s monster engineering staff, aka my husband, who suggested teasing the stuffing to make it less lumpy, installed the safety eyes and cut the teeth for me). I loved making him, and even though the finishing was more involved than I expected, it reinforced my love of getting details right on knitted objects. Finishing work is actually fun for me.

But if I love finishing, why do I have so many things started? I have 9 things on the needles right now, which seems ridiculous. I’ve started things I haven’t even logged as projects on Ravelry, like a Cassidy cardigan (I met Bonne Marie Burns in Chicago last month at YarnCon and yes, I was a total fangirl: “I love your patterns!”) and the Desdemona shawl in Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace (I may have gushed a little at the Lorna’s studio sale: “I love your yarn!” – that’s what happens when you buy yarn once a year; you get excited), and a pair of Roger socks for a dear friend. You would think all of these works in progress would have me a little overwhelmed and maybe a little guilty – but so far it just feels like really good knitting. In other words, you would be wrong.

Notes from the Tour de Fleece

California variegated mutant (CVM) 2-ply Though the last week of the Tour was filled with travel and a visit from my parents, I was still a productive spinner – this is 8 ounces of California Variegated Mutant spun up into about 175 yards of sportweight 2-ply. Of course, I thought this yarn was worsted weight, and I ended up using a size 8 needle, three sizes larger than my typical worsted yarn choice. So it’s probably more accurate to say some parts of it were worsted weight. The skein on the bottom was spun and plied during an incredibly fruitful spinning workshop I took with my guild in March, then I finished the skein on top (notably less overspun) during the Tour. I loved working with the CVM, and it softened right up after a bath, so it’s perfection in a skein as far as I’m concerned. I’m hoping to make the Sweet Fern Mitts with this yarn from the Knitters Book of Wool. Mitts of some kind, at least.

Handspun Hat Even though the Tour was for spinning, I also finished my first handspun, handknit item: a hat. This is the clever Top Down Ribbed Beanie from Charisa Martin-Cairn with the addition of a stripe of luxury yarn I carded, spun and Navajo-plied myself during the aforementioned workshop in March. There’s a little bit of sable, a little denim waste – surely the most experimental thing I’ve knitted with in quite awhile, wooly girl that I am. The luxury yarn has too much twist, since I am still a Navajo-plying novice – but I did it, and that’s what counts.

Laila Socks, Cast OnAnother thing I did recently (not related to the Tour de Fleece) was cast on for my first pair of colorwork socks, from stash, from a pattern I’ve had waiting for at least four years. These are of course, the estimable Laila’s Socks from the frankly awesome Nancy Bush – as you can see, this is a popular pattern, and it’s hard to make it look bad; I myself went with the “if girly is good, girly with bling is better” combination of Lorna’s Laces in Tickled Pink and white sock yarn with sparkles in it. Let me tell you a secret, which when I say it will be just as annoying as hearing “I lost the weight and I ate whatever I wanted.” Colorwork is easy.

I hold the contrast color in my dominant hand to make it pop, I hold the main color in my secondary hand, and I never vary that pattern. That one piece of information (plus a sock needle two sizes larger than usual to help ensure looser even tension) is all I needed to feel like I cracked the mysteries of colorwork and make myself into a two-handed knitter. I’m at the heel of sock one, trying to finish these for the Sock Knitters Anonymous colorwork challenge which ends August 31, so the odds are in my favor. I’m just putting this sock-related promise here in writing, because I may have cast on not one but two knitted toys this weekend – wait until you see the cuteness to come.

Never give up! Never surrender!

Corriedale/Mohair spun for Heifer International raffle For me, learning to spin has been an exercise in patience. I balanced the idea that every time I tried to spin it was hard and I sucked against the notion I kept reading about: it takes a pound of fiber to get any good at spinning. So if I gave up before I had spun a lot, I might miss out on the fun of really developing some skill and seeing that pay off.

As much as I try to be a “process” person, I am a “product” person. I see the fiber, I want the yarn. I see the yarn, I want the socks (or the sweater, or the scarf or the hat). So it was especially gratifying to cross the finish line with this, my first completely-stuffed-full bobbin of fiber, a Corriedale/Mohair mix spun as a fine single for my local spinning guild’s Heifer International fundraiser later this year – it will become part of a woven shawl that will be raffled off. I sold two winning tickets last year, but was too bashful to spin something for public consumption. Six months later, I sat down and did it like it was nothing, and as I said to someone while the bobbin was filling: “I never thought I’d get to the point where some parts of spinning are easier than some parts of knitting.” I’m now deep into the spinning of this fiber, about two ounces down, and a little over 3 ounces to go. Things seem less hard if you practice, is all I’m saying. And if you watch Galaxy Quest, where “Never give up! Never surrender!” comes from.

Leyburn, finished: full Meet the socks that are harder than some parts of spinning: these are MintyFresh’s Leyburn socks, in the Claudia Handpainted Fingering colorway Circus Dancer (more pictures here). I sailed along with these two-at-a-time on one needle, and then, during a particularly tense moment in Crazy Heart, I looked away, my hands kept going..and I goofed up the slipstitch pattern. And I had a devil of a time fixing it – I had to separate the socks, and knit, and reknit, and rip…and at some point while I was knitting with friends (in public! on Knit in Public Day!) I looked down and realized my hands knew what to do; they understood the pattern better than my thinking brain did. That was both good and weird, a knitting breakthrough of an entirely new kind for me, and one for which I’m very grateful. Sadly, they’ve gone to live with a knitting friend in Montana, but I did get a bodaciously good pair of beaded rib socks in Knit One Crochet Too TyDy in return – I would show a modeled picture of them, but it’s 90 here, so that will have to wait for later.

Fionn, up to the armholesAnd then there’s Fionn, up to the armholes and forsaken not due to the heat, but sock-related deadlines, so I’m due to pick it back up shortly. It’s turning out just as expected, and thus far has been a pleasure to knit, particularly when there’s air conditioning available. I have this fantasy that I’ll clear off my knitting needles, but even as I finish one project, others are calling to me – I have a small but mighty UFO pile, which includes a handspun hat (from my first plied yarn) and a pair of Paraphernailia socks that are so! close! to! being! done! But I might have started a new pair of socks this weekend instead…

All-points bulletin

At the B.B. King Mural in Indianola, MS I’m getting a lot of stuff done today, so what better time to pop in with an update? It’s been longer than I hoped it might be since we saw each other, but I have a good excuse – I was on vacation. For our anniversary in April, the Knit One, Purl Too Knitting Appreciation Society (aka, my husband) and I took off for Mississippi to (are you ready?) eat our way across the Mississippi Delta. I ate the best fried chicken I have ever had at the Old Country Store in Lorman, amazing brisket in Yazoo City at Ubon’s, and a fried green tomato BLT in Jackson that restored my faith in humanity. So. Much. Fun. The sock and I had a great time at the B.B. King museum in Indianola (which I cannot recommend highly enough – the displays and music were terrific). I totally enjoyed the exhibit on the writers of Greenville and knitted on my sock at their library (that’s the cuff of #2 there) before helping polish off a monumental steak at Doe’s Eat Place. The sock even paid homage to great bluesman Robert Johnson – it was a landmark trip. At Robert Johnson's Marker in Greenwood, MS

Except for one thing.

Now I can’t find the sock. Sock #2 to be specific. I know the sock made it home with us after the trip, but it seems to have been tucked away somewhere in a bout of pre-Mother’s Day cleaning and might not surface for months. I hope that’s not the case, but I’ve looked everywhere and my optimism is fading. I was just a few inches away from a finished pair, too. Where could they be?

The most wonderful time of the year.

I can say this to you because we’re friends: I love Thanksgiving with the fire of a thousand suns, and Christmas floats my boat, because who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift? But this time? After Christmas and before I return to work, when it’s okay for me to sit in my pajamas and a handknitted sweater looking at knitting on the internet and thinking about spending the day knitting? That might be my favorite time of all.

Noro Striped Scarf, finished I have rallied from baby knitting disasters and am prepared to finish 2009 in a big way, so I have a few things to show you. First up, perhaps my favorite FO of 2009, my Noro Striped Scarf. Tubular cast on, sewn bind off, about 3/4 of two different balls (S245 and S87; details here) of Noro Silk Garden sock yarn gave me a scarf that was 74 inches long. Honestly, I love Noro yarns (so all you haters of Noro can stuff it), but I think making socks out of Noro Silk Garden Sock is a fool’s errand; they would last about 5 minutes, because it’s not exactly a hard-wearing yarn, you know? So a scarf is perfect.

Next up in the “parade of FOs in delicate yarn” is a pair of plain vanilla socks in Handmaiden Casbah, colorway Ruby. I was not Casbah Socks completely swayed by the lure of a merino/cashmere blend, because it’s kind of splitty and slightly tempermental, like it will pill or fuzz if you look at it funny. But these were for my mom, because you do not turn 70 every day, and even though she’s a knitter, she is not a sock knitter. I originally started these as a pair of Wendy Johnson’s Trilobites in Arucania Ranco Multi (or Multy). I was not a happy knitter; this was the last skein of yarn I bought before embarking on 9 months of Cold Sheeping, and it was knitting up suspiciously like kitchen cotton: not soft, not mom-worthy. So I gave it away, and broke my Cold Sheep streak after 290 days (I checked) with Handmaiden Casbah, the yarn equivalent of dating a supermodel. They fit beautifully, and Mom is happy – this is a craft project that’s way better than a macaroni necklace. As an aside, this was the first pair of socks I did two-at-a-time on one needle, and after completing my Nancy Bush mystery socks two-at-a-time on separate needles, I am completely in love with knitting two socks at once – that is perhaps 2009′s biggest discovery: the banishment of second sock syndrome (except for one tiny exception – I’ll definitely take care of that).

Newfoundland Mitt minus Thumb My final project for 2009 might give you a clue as to what 2010 holds: this is the Newfoundland mittens, queued in Ravelry October 7, 2007; one skein of Brown Sheep Shepherd’s Shades and one skein of Noro Kureyon (color 170, still a favorite). I have 280 things in my Ravelry queue, and it’s time to knit some of them up. I mentioned here that I’d like to try 10 new techniques in 2010, including installing a zipper in a knitted garment (#32 in my queue) and thrumming (#4 in my queue, and I have a pile of thrums waiting). I might even finish a pair of baby booties before my littlest cousin’s arrival. So happy new year to you and your needles – here’s to knitting on with confidence in 2010, just like Elizabeth recommends.

The opposite of fun.

What kind of knitter am I? I love challenges, use deadlines as motivators and think knitting for other people is noble and worthy, as long as I also get to knit for myself. Still with me? I also know my eyes are bigger than my stomach, knitting-wise, since it takes me four years to finish a sweater and my Ravelry queue is ten pages and holding – no matter how hard I try to restrain myself, there’s always something new and lovely to knit, there’s always a reason to knit faster, and if I’m not careful, I could get myself into a lot of trouble.

Take, for instance, three weeks ago Saturday.

The scene is my cousin’s wife’s baby shower, to be held three hours from my house in Ohio – I had dutifully started a Baby Surprise Jacket as soon as I had talked myself into baby knitting (“Can I finish a knitted gift? Probably not; I shouldn’t even try…But it would be so cute – and I love Elizabeth Zimmermann, even if I always forget to add the extra N – let’s knit this thing!”) which took a week or so, time I could have spent knitting, but didn’t because I was finishing these Nancy Bush Fox Faces socks (which I love, and are great – Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select highly recommended). Nancy Bush SKA Mystery Socks, Finished Long story short, the BSJ hit a snag (an inexplicable section of stockinette – how hard is it to knit garter stitch?) and I knew it would not be done in time for the baby shower, thanks to obligations like a job, which seemed to be getting more than full-time by the minute.

As an alternative “gift garnish,” for this kickass diaper bag, I started a pair of Saartje’s booties the Bockstark way two days before the shower. Shower Saturday dawns bright and clear, and my plan is working, but I’m running out of time. Booties are done, except for buttons and button loops. My sainted husband offers to drive me to Michigan for the shower so I can finish the booties. How long could finishing take? I pictured a quick bit of knitting followed by a chatty car ride.

Answer? We may never know, because when it comes to button loops? I suck under pressure. Despite this great video, I made ugly button loops the size of basketball hoops, and in a fit of frustration, with just 20 miles or so to go before arriving at the shower…I cut them off the end of the bootie straps, snipping one of the straps in the process, and causing it to unravel. It was at about this point that I unraveled as well, out of frustration.

New Knitting Rule: If you have to count the car ride to the event as part of the time needed to finish your knitted gift, you’re probably screwed, knitting-wise you should definitely have a backup plan.

I returned home, full of shower cake, and not a little sad that once again I had gotten myself in a knitting pickle. I make my knitting deadlines just often enough that I talk myself into setting them, again and again. But knitting is supposed to be fun, and these two failed projects were the opposite of fun

Noro Striped Scarf, ProgressYou know what’s fun? Deciding on a whim to start a Noro striped scarf, and knitting away, stripe after stripe. I have been monogamous to this thing since October 25 as “failed baby gift” therapy, and you know what? It’s as tall as I am now, more than 5 feet and growing. Apparently, I can knit, I just have trouble knitting to a deadline.

Which, of course, is why I signed up with some knitting friends to participate in the Ravelympics in February. I probably will have forgotten all about this debacle by then. Also, I’m seriously considering stacking the knitting olympics deck by knitting a (quite lovely) sweater on size 15 needles.

Lace and me, we’re BFFs

Lizzy, CompleteWhat’s holding up the show around here is this: I don’t have the beauty shot. You know, you finish a big project and you want to take the perfect picture of you, carefree, (and with great hair) wearing the perfect sweater? In advertising, they call that the beauty shot. Well, I finished Lizzy when it was 90 degrees out, so there was no sweater-wearing any longer than it took to say “yes, it fits.” so this is what I have, for now.

For the first time, I got the sweater I expected based on the measurements I picked – it fits, and the waist shaping I added looks lovely. Plus, I am now a master of the set-in sleeve. I don’t want to tell you how long I spent getting it right, but I did, and it was worth it. As excited as I am about Lizzy’s greatness, it’s taken me a good three weeks to admit it will be awhile before the final FO shot gets taken. You’ll be the first to know when it does.

Pot Pourri Socks, FinishedIn the meantime, I have a consolation prize for you: socks. These are Deb Barnhill’s Pot Pourri Socks from the terrific Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn (you’ll recognize the yarn as the Seacoast Handpainted merino tencel reincarnated from my failed Punctuated Rib socks – which I am totally going to make, Ann Budd, I promise!), knitted on size 1 needles. I’ve read elsewhere that the double-figure 8 row is a pain in the neck, and I can’t lie – it was time consuming, but it works to break up the pooling very nicely.

In the knitting confessions department, this is just my second third pair of lace socks (I always forget about these), and I think I’m finally starting to get lace in a way I had not before. Which is a good thing, because I start the Nancy Bush lacy Mystery Sock for Sock Knitters Anonymous tomorrow…and I’ve wound the yarn for my Flower Basket Shawl, after four long years. Lace and me, we’re BFFs for sure.

The James Brown of sock yarns

Paraphernalia Progress It’s been an eventful month around these parts – work is exceptionally busy which explains why you get last week’s photo of the current sock instead of one taken yesterday, as I approached the toe. As you might have guessed, the sock is Paraphernalia, out of stashed Opal. This is my last ball of Opal in the sock yarn bin, and given that I still have a fair amount of knitting up to do before I reach 20,000 yards in stash, Opal and I will be separated for a good long while.

Can I just say again how much I love it? Opal is the James Brown of sock yarns – the hardest-working yarn in show business. Color, durability, yardage, and value; Opal has it all. Love! If there’s anything reading forums at Ravelry has taught me, it’s that there are a million kinds of sock yarn and an equal number of people who love each one. You can have your Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend – I’ll take Opal any day.

The only downside? This sock may turn out to fit my mother’s size 7 foot instead of my wee size 6. So I might lose out, and mom will get two pairs, since her Bells and Whistles Socks are next up in the “Finish Me!” parade, sock division.
Lizzy Progress First to be finished will be Lizzy, seen here as last week’s pile of pieces, now a seam and a ruffle away from being a cardigan. I’m as shocked as you are to find that…I like seaming. For a results-oriented person like myself, it’s easy to see the relationship between the time spent learning how to do it well, and the lovely seams that are the product. It also makes me feel like the 14 months I spent with this sweater in progress were worth it because I’ll happily wear it out of the house…when it’s not 90 degrees here.

Tune in next time: will I start the Chicknits Ribby Cardi or Slinky Ribs from Custom Knits? Can I keep from casting on two pairs of socks for the July Socknitters Anonymous challenge? Will my budding crochet skills allow me to start Evelyn Clark’s Flowerbasket Shawl as it was meant to be started? You and I are both dying to find out.

April was the cruelest month

Punctuated Rib AttemptsThings were going so well. And yet, after a bang-up period in March that included two FOs and more than 1,000 yards knitted, I entered some kind of fugue state; just like Groundhog Day, I started the same socks over and over. I was willing the Punctuated Rib socks to work out with every fiber of my being, but yarn choices and stitch counts conspired against me. In the Large size, my chosen yarn behaved beautifully, but the sock was too big. In the Small, I fretted over pooling and flashing, but a sock I feared would be too ugly to look at fit just fine. So I changed yarns, and the dance started all over again. I started these socks a dozen times if I started them once, and in the end, I felt it’s not right to hold a grudge against your knitting. So I moved on – sort of.

Instead of finishing the Oak Ribbed Socks I bragged about almost having finished in my last post, I started another sock two times over, the Crossing Cables sock by Danny Ouelette, which I love, and which is also not working out to my satisfaction. Crossing Cables Comparison My problem is that the photo here is probably the worst photo I could take of the blue sock on the right, and the best possible photo of the green sock on the left – in reality, they’re both “meh” for different reasons, and in danger of becoming one of those projects I myself might look at and say “How could she have chosen that yarn? it doesn’t go with that pattern at all.” [People who knit lace socks with self-striping yarn, I am looking at you - ed.]. I think it’s back to the drawing board for these…

Sea Lettuce Scarf ProgressOn the bright side, I started another long-stashed project recently, Lucy Neatby’s Sea Lettuce Scarf – it’s charming, there’s no pooling or flashing, and though it’s going slowly, I’m enjoying watching it develop rather than dreading what surprise the next turn of the needles might bring. If you’re going to cast on, you might as well have something to show for it.

If loving self-striping sock yarn is wrong…

Jaywalker Socks I am still not buying yarn, but it’s not very blog-worthy to say “once again, nothing new!” I have finished the SuperSecretKnittingProject (which I swear you’ll see the second I get the OK), and my lovely Jaywalkers. Specs: DROPS Fabel 901, a Christmas gift from my cousin. I liked the yarn, and the fit is pretty good – I didn’t run into any “I can’t get this over my ankle” issues. The stitch pattern is the opposite of ribbing (little negative ease, little give), but they’re super-cute and I’m happy. Jaywalker Socks The Fabel also softened up in the wash, so I’m liking it a lot, yarn-choice-wise. First Eye of Partridge heel, and yet another picot hem – I am wondering if I’ll ever get tired of how cute they are.

And just when you thought I had exhausted my fascination with self-striping yarn, I present you with Nancy Bush’s Oak Ribbed Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks, started at the end of March, due to be finished within hours of this writing. This may be the best story of my knitting career: I admit here that this pink and brown yarn almost made me fall off the yarn diet wagon after two and a half months, because as much as I loved the SuperSecretProject, I was ready to be knitting something else. Blogless Melanie sees my post and offers to swap with me – a week later, I have yarn and candy, courtesy of Melanie and Canada Post. Thank you, Melanie! Oak Ribbed Socks in Progress

Two FOs complete means that I have knitted up 1100 yards and have about 4300 yards to go before I reach the magic “20,000 yards remaining in stash” threshold. I already have 3100 yards actively WIPping right now. How did that happen? Doesn’t that seem like a lot? Honestly, it’s probably Lizzy, the Noro sweater with just 3/4 of a front left to knit. It might also be that I had a tiny bout of startits – why finish something old when you can start something new and fresh? I can trace the source of the startitis to Sock Knitters Anonymous. The April challenge to knit an underappreciated pattern (15 or fewer projects in Ravelry on April 1) was irresistible to me: I have not one but two prime sock patterns ready for love in my queue. Look for an appearance shortly from Ann Budd’s Punctuated Rib Socks, found in the splendid Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. I’d be far enough along to show you something, but I foolishly started the large instead of the small, so there’s been a little ripping and the re-knitting is still in progress. The other sock pattern? So underappreciated, I’ll be the first project…I feel I have to, since I’ve wanted to make them for years (See? I asked Melinda about them in 2004). I’d take a break from self-striping for that.