Category Archives: Retro Ribs

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.

I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies, Miss Scarlett.

You never know, when you start a project, that this will be the item that takes for-evah to finish. You love each project when you start it, so bright and full of promise – new yarn, new pattern, maybe even new needles; what could be wrong with that? And yet, sometimes something happens…I feel like it should not take a year and a half to finish a pair of socks, even for size 11 feet, but it did.

500 yards of yarn later, a pair of socks

Vital stats: The Retro Rib socks by Evelyn A. Clark from the Winter 04 issue of Interweave Knits in Mountain Colors Bearfoot Glacier Peak, 1 1/3 skeins on size 2 1.5 needles, kicking it Magic Loop-style. Started May 2005(!), finished October 11, 2006.

With a time to completion like that is it any wonder I hesitate to buy even one more skein of yarn? It reminds me of a Vows column I read in the New York Times where the couple agreed to date until they were done reading Don Quixote together – as they fell deeper in love, they read more slowly; at the time that was written, they were on page 17. Obviously, the more I love my husband, the more slowly I knit things for him, right? Right?

Anyhoo, the best thing about these socks is that if I like having them off my needles, I love how they look on the feet. I recommend the Retro Rib pattern without reservation. Nice, no? All the detail pops out, the ribbing looks great, the pooling is not as noticeable – it’s almost enough to make me turn right around and make him another pair of socks. If only his feet were smaller. On the bright side, the leftovers from his socks are enough to make a pair for myself – as soon as I can look at the yarn without feeling like I’ve just given birth to a baby that’s been gestating for a year and a half, I might just do that.

For now I’m back to working on the Meadow Flowers shawl we last saw here. I think I am a stitch off somewhere, but I’m really hoping to have this done in time for Halloween. Why? You’ll just have to wait and see – all I can say is that it doesn’t involve any socks.

The cheap seats.

There were so many people at the Ann Arbor Public Library on Sunday that latecomers (or those who simply wanted to sneak in a side trip to Zingerman’s, like my friend Jen and I) watched Stephanie on TV in the fourth floor conference room. On TV. The view was pretty good from what I referred to as the cheap seats, but I still turned to Jen and said “I think I’ve crossed some sort of line when I drive a couple hundred miles to watch knitting on TV.” Heh. Between the hundred or so knitters and spinners in the conference room and two hundred downstairs at the talk itself, I think a Stephanie Pearl-McPhee book signing now officially qualifies as its own traveling fiber festival, albeit one at which Stephanie is the only vendor.

I was shocked that Steph knew who I was: I guess it’s all the stalking of that sweater that shall not be named. That, and the discovery of our mutual dislike of batwing sleeves. She called me a celebrity; I should have pointed out that even on my best days I can’t get people to stand in line to talk to me, but I just laughed instead. I set aside my Midwestern reticence (the same politness that doesn’t allow me to call someone after 9 p.m., ever) to ask for a photo, which also qualifies as a Retro Rib progress picture (I’m in the middle, the only one not holding a Pearl-McPhee sock) – it’s all foot, all the time now. Jen is holding Stephanie’s other traveling sock, because you can’t take a picture without knitting in your hand if you’re with Stephanie. I’m sure both of Stephanie’s socks are done now – if I didn’t know better, I would say she and Mrs. Weasley shared the “it just knits itself” gene.

But it occurred to me – that’s the beauty of something wacky like driving a few hundred miles to watch a knitting talk on TV. All of the knitting I saw didn’t just “knit itself” – it was made by hand. Someone wanted to make it, picked up needles and yarn, and went to work. Those crazy beautiful lace shawls, the multitudes of socks, the felted bags didn’t just pop out of a shopping bag; they were made by someone who cared about making them. I don’t love yarn or patterns indiscriminately, but just thinking about how much work went into all of those finished objects makes me love all kinds of knitters just a little more. Even if they’re in love with entrelac, or batwing sleeves.

Making the doughnuts.

I’m so sorry – I keep thinking I’ve actually written something here, but every time I look, it’s still the same, and I realize “You were just thinking that about the sock – actually writing it down is another completely different step.” Herewith, some notes from the underground (ha!):

Again with the Retro Rib: The heel is turned, the gusset is mere rows from being completed – all that remains is the foot, and of course, the toe. I have approximately a million hours (okay, a week’s worth) of software training coming up and I thought “this pattern is too complex to knit while I look like I am paying attention for eight solid hours a day.” Why not start something new? Something simple, yet not just another stockinette sock? Inspired by this lovely Trekking sock and the purchase of some Trekking in my favorite colors (lime green and pink – I can’t look away!), I started the chevron pattern my own self and then when I stopped to admire my work as Maggie Righetti recommends, I noticed I had screwed up twice in the space of two hours. The garter stitch cuff I’ve got covered, but lose one YO and it seems lost forever. Unsurprisingly, I am back to thinking the Retro Ribs are looking like a good choice (but I reserve the right to give in to desperation and start a plainer sock – eight hours a day is a lot of training).

I’m feeling pretty monagamous, project-wise: I have just 2 1/2 things in progress right now: the Retro Ribs, the Cable Cardigan (Good Lord – remember that?) sweater – and the 1/2 a project is a dishcloth I haven’t shown you yet. How virtuous is that? I am finishing things I have started, I am knitting from stash, and it’s all good. In the spirit of knitting simplicity (I urge you check out that link), I even destashed, and sold off some yarn when Knit One Purl Too’s Color Choosing Specialist (aka my husband) said “That Lopi is too brown – it would be too much for me.” I can take a hint and I’m not going to spend a lot of time knitting a sweater that’s not the bee’s knees for my sweetie. Between that and the finishing of projects, I’m feeling…simpler.

I’m also feeling busier – my lack of posts can be attributed in part to a huge freelance writing project that has me writing a lot, almost every day for the next few months…in addition to my regular job, where I write and raise money and work with volunteers and analyze spreadsheets and charts and all that. On the bright side, freelancing pays extraordinarily well, especially when compared with the average nonprofit salary. But I’ll try to keep updates coming; even as my free time dwindles you know knitting will be the last luxury I’ll give up. And when the stash is small enough, my future yarn purchases will already be paid for. Sweet deal, no?

Things I don’t like about knitting

1. I find entrelac in all its forms rather scary and unappetizing.
2. I’m a little worried that the return of the 80s means batwing-sleeved sweaters are coming back into style.
3. Representational intarsia motifs in garments for people over the age of ten. [ For instance: Dots? Yes. Frogs or Christmas trees? No. I am, however, all over the Miss Bea's books for children, because I'm not made of stone. -ed.]
4. The picking up of stitches after the turning of sock heels; I have no idea why, but I know that if I’m going to stall on a sock, it will be here. I hate it, it’s fiddly and hard on my hands. But not today – see the heel on the first Crusoe sock? Good to go, and it took longer to turn the heel than to pick up stitches. I was so easy.  What's her problem?
Though it feels weird to admit it, much like it does when I admit I like grafting, there is no such thing as Second Sock Syndrome for me – it takes me long enough to knit a pair of socks that I completely forget about any trauma with the first sock by the time I’m into the second – I’m just looking forward to the finished object. I am a slow enough knitter, however, that I go through each of the five Project Stages several times before they’re complete. What are they?

Denial – “I can knock this [fill in project name here] out in [a month/aweek/a day/give me a minute]” This is said regardless of knitting speed, full-time employment status and past project completion rate. I constantly revise the date on which my sockpal socks will be finished.

Bargaining – “This is taking a little longer than I thought, but if I just knit for [15 minutes a day/an hour a day/each evening/all weekend/every waking moment, forsaking all other obligations], it will be done in plenty of time.” I’m not yet worried I’ll be done by May 1, but I could be…

Anger – “#@&*#Y! There’s a mistake [X rows/XX rows/XXXrows] back – I can’t believe it!” Who knits their heel flap over 36 stitches…on a 64 stitch sock? I do, apparently, so it took two tries (and yes, I counted – wrongly, I guess).

Depression – “I should have knit [fill in name of other project here] instead. This sucks.” See also: stash enhancement as distraction from stalled knitting. Let’s just say there’s a scarf from Vogue Knitting with my name on it…

Not bad for waiting around for almost a year Acceptance – Hey, if I knit just a little more….I’m done! I love it!

And yet, even though this seemed to take forever, just seeing that I’ve finished one Retro Rib makes me want to knit the other. As long as it’s not a sweater with a cat on it, that’s okay.

Meet the new sock, same as the old sock.

Turn my heel.  Feel the love. With apologies to The Who, I am all about the new socks, same as the old sock – or if you’re being literal, one new sock and one old sock that is the old sock, except just about finished.

The Retro Ribs now have the distinction as “project which has languished longest without completion,” started May 2005 (a length of time, which, for a pair of socks, is pretty freaking impressive, if you ask me). Even though it’s just an 8-stitch, 4-row repeat, I think they’ve taken this long because I didn’t really grok the pattern; that’s no longer true, and I’ve sailed through the foot – probably better than five inches of progress in two days. Which is a lot for me, so all you speedy knitters, watch out! It also helps that the yarn is fairly dark (click to see a rather nice detail), hiding any number of sins. I am on the case with the Retro Ribs, at least until I graft the toe and can use these needles to swatch for my Sockapaloooza socks. This is the sock that never ends, but he loves them, so what can I do but finish?

“I should be my own Best Pal.” These are the words I heard in my head yesterday morning when I saw yet another unveiling of secret pal goodies on a knitting blog. There’s been more than a little talk about Secret Pals and the goodies they send in blogland recently: is it bragging? Is it “buying” friendship? Is it really necessary, all the posting of the gifts? Isn’t it disappointing when the pal doesn’t reciprocate? Does blogging have cliques, and does it matter if you’re “in” or “out?” [I love you, Heidi Klum - call me! - ed.]

Whether you’re a Secret Pal or not, I think the point of being your own best pal is not to run up a big credit card bill buying whatever you want [note to the Internet: Reading how guilty you feel about your latest yarn purchase but that you did it anyway "because you just couldn't help yourself" ranks right below "I'm posting but I have nothing to say." on my list of Things Probably Not Worth Posting; see We Want More Knitting Content, above er, below - ed.]. It’s about giving yourself permission to use the tools and materials you love to expand your knitting horizons and become a better knitter. For the record, I’m in favor of all kinds of Internet surprises, and I begrudge no one their treats, but I want to see your knitting. That is the burning question in my mind when I read your blog: what are you knitting, and what can I learn from you? For that reason, the photos of Secret Pal packages are not quite as interesting to me as the things people make with what they receive.

Frankly, I have no good answer to those who say “Why complain or worry about the secret pal exchanges when you can just buy yourself something special?” Why indeed? I have a limited knitting budget (who does not?), but I suppose that’s why they call them “treats” – they don’t come around every day. After the Mom socks and the Sockapaloooza socks and the Retro Ribs are finished (whew!), I think I’ll “pal” myself with a little something special. I have a sneaking suspicion that being generous with myself in a knitterly way might allow me to be more generous with other knitters, cutting down on the grumbling from my corner of the Interweb. So, with apologies to Clairol, I’m worth it. Aren’t we all?

imbestpal.jpg

bestpal2.jpg

bestpal3.jpg

[If you like the buttons, take one - ed.]

What are my options?

I was no longer truly in love with the Retro Rib sock – I loved the yarn, I loved the pattern – I even sort of loved them together. But this project had languished in my basket for far too long – and absence lack of progress did not make the heart grow fonder. I think the moment of truth came last week while I was fixing fudging the heel flap in the middle of an opera master class (yes, not only have I knitted with Chrisitine Lavin, I have now technically knitted with opera star Marilyn Horne, who is very, very funny). I was lamenting (for the millionth time) my use of lovely yarn that is nonetheless dark and obscures stitches, a huge obstacle to the production of the high-quality socks we hope for here at Knit One, Purl Too.

My moment was just like the instant you see a ding in your new car, and though you love it in spite of the ding, you love it a little less now that you know it’s no longer perfect. Your mind wanders for just a tiny moment to contemplate the next new car, because the car with the ding is now “old”. I began thinking about new socks. Should I

a. Throw over the old, bad socks for new, good socks – nothing fascinates like a new pattern, and I have been waiting to do Danny Ouelette’s Crossing Cables socks for months.

How long has this languished? Months and months. b. Spend an entire Saturday on the couch nursing a beagle who ate something which did not agree with him (thus he was not allowed anywhere he might unexpectedly deposit…something…on carpet or bedding), with the only knitting in reach being one Retro Rib sock.

I’ll take B. for $500, Alex. I feel almost virtuous saying that: “I’ll stick with it.” Because you don’t know it’s going to turn out better until it does.

In other knitting landmarks, the very first ball of yarn I ever wound from a skein (wound by hand because I was a Luddite without a winder art the time), some navy Cascade 220, recently became the last bit of the body of the ToteAround. That’s Kureyon 40 (the blues) and Kureyon 102 (the orange/yellow/pink/blue); I tried several different options for the 102 including knitting from the predominantly pink end of this ball (I never thought I would say this, but it was too pink) and knitting with earth-toned scraps of Kureyon 81(surprisingly, too earth-toned), but the third try is juuuust right. Knit One Purl Too’s Aesthetic Consultant (aka my husband) compared it to a sunset over a lake – you can’t beat that with a stick! Like a sunset over a lake, all right

Now I am occupied with the miles and miles of i-cord for the top edging of the bag – the 45 inches for the strap is just the beginning. Then you knit on enough i-cord to circle the top of the bag and the strap three times; for the record, I have 1 1/2 trips around the horn to go. While I love the knitted-on i-cord technique, I know the i-cord will make things sturdy and I love the bag, I may have to set it aside. A tiny voice inside my head is saying “You have 34 days until the Festivus stocking should be done.” I can’t ignore it for much longer; even though 825 hours, 8 minutes and 31 seconds sounds longer, I know it’s not.

All about the socks (mine and hers and his).

Hang on to your shorts; I think this may set the record for “number of pictures Donna can stuff into one entry.” The only sad part? You’re about to see virtually my entire stash of sock yarn (Yes, Susan, this is almost everything – you do indeed have fifty times the sock yarn I do!). I spent part of yesterday unearthing potential yarn choices for me Sockapal2za pal. Let’s take a look! First, I went deep into the stash for the yarn that’s been marinating the longest: two different colors of Koigu, one (pink) purchased from Rob and Matt, and the other (blue) infamous for being the one that put me on my first yarn diet. This is some Sockotta I received thanks to a fortuitous swap with another Socklister, still unkitted after at least a year (I think I am in the “last in, first out” sock yarn stashing camp; witness the Opal socknitting frenzy). Perfect for summer, but is it the right yarn for my pal? Maybe, maybe not. Since I’m finishing the socks in September, my sock pal could enjoy warming her tootsies in this Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Wilderness. It’s soft, knits up quickly, and would be obscenely comfortable – are the colors too masculine? Plus, I’m kind of in the middle of a pair of Bearfoot socks right now (see below for action shots). Here’s awesome sock yarn from Debbie at DZined. This is the last of my swell hemp yarn stash – I may make a pilgrimage to KnitFest for more, or I may have to keep this for myself! This Lang Jawoll was a delightful find on last year’s trip to The Fifth Stitch in Defiance; Ellen Upp’s store is off the beaten track for me, but she has sock yarns I don’t see anywhere else (thankfully, there’s mail order). Should I use self-patterning yarn, though? Isn’t that cheating? Sock pal, will you love your socks if they’re stockinette? And yet, even as I worry about the self-patterning yarn, here’s some that’s won my heart: Regia, won earlier this year from the lovely Lisa and her dawgs. I have fantasies of wearing socks made out of this yarn to work, hidden under sedate suit trousers – so my sock pal might be out of luck here.
What to do (Duffle was unimpressed with my quandry over what to choose.)?

I would be remiss if I didn’t share progress on my current socks – the first Opal sock is sooo long I had to fold it to get a decent photo (hee!), and very close to the toe decreases. Here’s a view of the lovely heel, in which I bossed around my knitting and broke the yarn to achieve to pattern repeat I wanted. We are all about the small knitting victories here at Knit One, Purl Too.

I’m also (finally) about to turn the heel on the first Retro Rib sock (Closeup of incredibly hard-to-photograph fabric) for Knit One, Purl Too’s Yarn Expedition Expediter – my husband. He’s calling it a July vacation to Acadia National Park in Maine; I’m calling it an excuse to visit Green Mountain Spinnery, Peace Fleece, Halcyon Yarn, Cottage Craft…you get the idea. And, sock pal? I think you’re getting Koigu – nothing’s too good for you!

Bonus link: Though it’s hard to believe I’d be looking at winter garments when it’s so hot out, check out these cool handwarmers in Berroco Air – I thought Berroco was “all foofy yarn, all the time” – who knew?

That’s the kind of girl I am.

Now I understand what people mean when they talk about it being “too hot to knit sweaters” – I finished the body of the Lush sweater, and fickle girl that I am, instead of starting right in on the sleeves, I cast on for another pair of socks. I was looking for something easy and soothing as work got busier; a quick adaption of the 56-stitch 56-row sock pattern (can anyone say “64 stitches”) and I’m off to the races.

Five inches, six inches – everything was going along smoothly until I, um, tried the sock on. It’s about an inch too small; I can get it over my ankle, but as they say in the South, “it’s like stuffing ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag.” So, I’m ripping. Or am I?

The astute among you will recognize this as Meilenweit Fun & Stripes; I see the stripes, and I guess those huge dark smudges at the edges of various stripes are the “fun”. Wow, that ticks me off. You cannot see that “design feature” at all when the yarn is in the ball – it’s only after you start knitting it up that the smudges show (look at the sock in the lower left here and you’ll see what I mean). Dear Lana Grossa: Could you please explain why you would make a lovely, colorful yarn with grey spots? I love you but I may have to start seeing other yarns. Love, Donna

After my little stockinette intermission, the Bearfoot Retro Rib socks started to look better and better – the right size, and now just a few rounds from the heel – imagine this sock several inches longer. But not very springy. What’s a girl to do? Why enter a contest of course. Thanks to the magic of random numbers and the fact that I love Donald Justice’s poem Men at Forty, Laurie is gifting me with this yarn in honor of her birthday (I am sending you to the entry so you can also admire the great picture of Laurie as a baby). What a treat, sure to save me from the “fun and stripe blues”. For the record, I am as surprised as anyone to be on the winning end of this contest. Then again, Donald Justice has never done me wrong. The third time’s the charm, though – I’m sure my contest luck is over at this point (at least until I have a contest of my own). Thanks, Laurie!

I did not go to Maryland.

…but I did have a birthday on May 9 – whee! Pinch me, I’m 36(!) I can’t believe it either – every year that passes, I remain gobsmacked that I have not been hit by a bus or eaten by wolves. I can remember when my mother turned 40, and here I am, closer than I ever thought I’d be to turning 40 – in a good way.

I did receive some knitterly birthday presents, including a Knit This dog toy knitting kit from Target (I will knit them, Duffle will happily demolish them) and Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis, a book which I have been coveting for a good while, all due to Stephanie’s endorsement. My birthday did not include a binge at the yarn store, though I will soon be socking away on some de-stashed Meilenweit Fun and Stripes in celebration of the fabulous spring weather.

Much knitting has happened since we last saw each other. By the time you read this, I will be on Sleeve Island with the Lush sweater. That’s right, the body of my first sweater is done. Two sleeves and a turtleneck are all that remain; I’ll be sad when I’m done – you never forget your first – but the thrill of finishing will far outweigh temporary tears.

I have also been holding out on the sock front – I am almost done with the leg of Retro Rib #1 for Knit One Purl Too’s Ethnic Knitting Materials Acquisition Staff (aka my husband). This is Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Granite Peak on size 1s; any photo could not do justice to the subtle colors, but I’ll keep trying. I have not knitted with every sock yarn there is, but Bearfoot is addictive – soft, excellent color. If you’re going to spend a few months knitting a pair of socks, I highly recommend it.

As if that were not enough, these last few weeks have also been filled with big doings at Knit One Purl Too’s headquarters: our kitchen (otherwise known as the Knit One, Purl Too photo studio) is being remodeled – by us(!). That explains why my office is ably serving as a backdrop in the photos above [My desk is always that clean - it's the Monica Geller anal-retentive side of me -Ed.], and my delay in posting (it took awhile to admit that if I waited for the return of our photo studio kitchen to its natural state, my next entry might be in September). First comes knitting at lunchtime, then knitting action photos on the desk – next, watch for a tub of my stash to sneak into a file drawer. It’s only a matter of time.