Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In Which An Object Is Finished And Another Takes Center Stage

It felt as though I had been working on the Old Gold Stansfield socks forever (perhaps because I had to frog the first five inches after finding a chronic oopsie on round 12). But they are done at last.

The recipient is happy with the socks, and I am pleased too. The pattern (Stansfield 196 from More Sensational Knitted Socks) is lovely. It looks a lot like cables without actually being cables. Now I want to knit a pair for myself. But not right away. Two socks worth of the same pattern, however delightful, generally leaves me ready for something new. And the constant need to be alert to the special fix needed on round 12 became irritating. (The problem was this – on round 11 there is a yarnover after a knit and before a purl. If knit in the ordinary way on the next round it leaves what looks to me like a gaping hole; others might consider it delightfully lacy. But if one knits in the back of that yarnover – no hole.)

Sooooo . . . . . it's time to focus on finishing the second Aslan Knee Sock. Sock and I went down to the harbor, found a sunny bench, and spent some quality time together.

It's coming along nicely.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tricksy Knee Socks - Part Two

After my experience with Nancy Bush's Clock Stockings pattern, I knew I needed some help to figure out how to shape knee socks. I found it here. I followed the directions, measuring the length and circumference of my leg in a multitude of different spots. Then I did a gauge swatch, devised a strategy, and cast on.

This is the first sock:

The pattern – if such it can be called – consists of five repeats of K10, P2, K2, P2. The K10 panels were intended to handle the increases and decreases, and the P2,K2,P2 bits supplied some elasticity. I began with 80 stitches, increased to 88 for the calf, then back down to 80, then tapered down to 55 stitches at the ankle. And in general I'm happy with the result. But as you can see from this side view there are some issues.

The calf increases and decreases worked out fine. I did two at a time around a center line. No problem. Excellent fit, and at the end I was back to the 80 stitches I started with. So next . . .

I thought it would be a good idea to do two decreases on each 10-st panel to get down to 70 stitches and then a while further do the same thing again to get to 60 stitches. And I thought decreases on the sides of the panel wouldn't show. Not true. Those two spots where the panel curves in? Yes, those would be the decreases. I'm going to consider this a "design feature" for this pair, but never again.

To add to the pain . . . I decided 60 stitches was not quite snug enough for the narrowest part of the ankle, so decreased one more stitch in the middle of each panel to get down to 55 stitches. This decrease doesn't show at all.

As I did the gusset decreases I was noodling about how to handle the 55 stitches at the toe. Then I discovered I had made a mistake on one round and left out a decrease on one side. So I had 56 stitches. Problem solved – 28 stitches front and back, and a nice standard toe. Now that mistake has become part of the design.

I have learned a lot from this one sock and I'm going to knit the second one exactly the same—mistakes, "design features," and all. But I'm looking forward to casting on a new pair with a new, improved design.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cultural Context is Critical

Suppose you lived on a small island off the coast of a major country. Could be Britain or France or Japan or Australia. Anywhere. Then suppose you went for a walk along the harbor one Thursday morning in November and saw this:

You would probably take a hard look at this boat and try to identify the colored object bobbing in the air. You might pull out your digital camera and use the zoom to get a closer look. Then you might, or might not, realize that the object is an inflated plastic turkey.

Why are these people flying a plastic turkey from their boat? You might wonder and wonder. But if your island was situated off the coast of the USA you would know. They are celebrating Thanksgiving. Of course.

Thousands of years from now will archeologists wonder why the turkey was such a prevalent symbol in this one part of the globe? And will they ever deduce that it symbolizes gratitude for one's blessings? Turkey=thankfulness . . . the logic is a little shaky.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Yarn AND New Fiber

The post office has been good to me. Two packages in the same day – one of yarn and one of fiber. Yum!

First, the yarn. On the left we have a 4-oz skein of Austermann Step in color #03, which most vendors call "Grass Green" or something to that effect. On the right is another 4-oz skein, this one of Dream in Color's Smooshy sock yarn. The colorway is "Chinatown Red," and it's the most intriguing blend of dark red, brick red, and even a bit of orange. It will be a challenge to find exactly the right pattern for this beauty.

And then there's the fiber. Both of these are dyed by Lisa Souza. First is BFL in the Olive Tones colorway. I'm excited about this one, because I'm going to attempt to spin a fingering weight singles with it, finish it off, and then knit it into socks. NO plying! Various internet sources say that this can be done, as long as one "soft spins" the fiber. I thought BFL would be a good choice for the experiment, because it is both strong and long. We shall see.

Next is merino in the Wild Things colorway. This is destined for a more traditional two-ply. I'd love to Navaho ply it, but my limited efforts at three-plying have not been at all successful. Still, there is fun to be had in dividing up the fiber and deciding how to arrange the colors and how to draft. As a novice spinner, I am easily entertained.

The difficult part will be deciding what to do first. I lean toward spinning the BFL singles. But the merino colors are gorgeous. And that Chinatown Red yarn deserves a stunning pattern.

Spin? Knit? Design? Not enough hours in the day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Construction Zone

The newest naked yarn has been joined by a sibling (more Columbia Dorset). Plying is underway.

It's taking rather longer than I had anticipated. I've never kept a precise count of how many hours it takes to spin or ply a particular quantity (too depressing), but I think it took about two hours the last time I plied a two-ounce skein. So, in theory, this four-ounce skein should take about four hours. But I plied for over two hours yesterday and another hour today and I'm not even remotely half-way there. Maybe a quarter done, at best.

And I AM getting faster all the time. I often ply from the upstairs balcony, and with a really good sendoff the spindle will go almost all the way to the ground. My plying spindle is very good-natured too. Unlike some I might mention ('the Bos'), this spindle waits quietly once its work is done while I hoist it up to wind on the yarn. It does NOT immediately begin spinning in the opposite direction.

So, I shall ply and wind until the job is done. At least the weather is warm and sunny--perfect for prancing about on the balcony!

Monday, November 12, 2007

So Done With That . . . I Think

When I first began knitting socks (April 2005 to be precise), I bought some "sock" yarn under the guidance of the folks at Yarn Lady and some U.S. #2 bamboo DPN's. Armed with a set of directions on 'how to knit a sock' and some absolutely gorgeous Fortissima Socka Colori, I was off to San Miguel de Allende. No problem staying occupied on this plane trip. Knitting around and around, I was amazed to see beautifully colored stripes come flowing off the needles--so lovely that total strangers admired my work. Well, by vacation's end the socks were done--not perfect (a bit too short in the leg, gaps in the gusset, and a truly lumpy Kitchenered toe), but good. And I was enchanted with self-striping yarn.

The second pair I knit in Lion Brand Magic Stripes. Leg length much better this time. And I avoided gusset problems by doing a short-row heel.

Then the adventure of an afterthought heel with some Regia wool/cotton blend. And it was on sale!

Along the way, there was some Lang Color Jacquard, some more Regia, and so on -- stripes, stripes, stripes. Just when I thought I'd never stripe again I encountered Austerman Step, y'know the sock yarn with aloe vera. Yum! And the colors! And the lovely wiiide stripes! So I knit up a skein.

But then it was time to move on. Cable patterns, fair-isle patterns, lacey patterns . . . new adventures in sock knitting. No more stripes. Or so I thought.

Last week while browsing happily through the pages of my favorite sock yarn pushers--The Loopy Ewe and Simply Socks Yarn Company--I happened upon my old friend Austerman Step. New colors! Oh, nice. The blue, and, um, oooo, that green.

So I had a little accident. These things happen. Apparently stripes and I are getting back together.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Naked Yarn

At first glance this spindle full of yarn looks much like the Oatmeal yarn -- natural, straight from the sheep stuff. But this 2-oz single has a higher destiny. Once plied with its companion spindle (after the companion spindle has been filled, of course), this yarn is going to be dyed. How or with what, I am not sure. I've never dyed anything before. But I've been greatly attracted to some instructions provided by Lion Brand Yarn on how to create and use natural dyes. I lean towards tumeric. It's one of my favorite spices, and I like the color it will produce.

Another exciting thing about this apparently boring yarn is that the spindle does indeed contain a full two ounces, more than I have ever before been able to cram onto a spindle. And there's room for more--perhaps three, or even four, ounces. The two bibles that have guided my first baby steps into spinning ("Spinning in the Old Way" by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and "Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert" by Connie Delaney) provide more than adequate information on what a full 'cop' (the yarn wound on the spindle) should look like. But they are are a bit sketchy on the details of how to attain this perfect cop -- one that does NOT slide merrily off the end of the shaft every other twirl. It's a difficult thing to communicate in a book, so much easier if one had the expert at hand to say: "see, just do this."

But after much experimenting--and dropping of yarn--I have found a way that works. I wind the yarn down the shaft about 1-2 inches from the top, then wind back up. *Next time down I wind 4-6 wraps further, then back up to the top again. Repeat from *. Eventually the yarn is as far down the shaft as possible. Now it's time to retreat. I wind down but stop a bit short of the bottom and create a little cliff edge (past which thou shalt not wind) and head back up to the top. Each time down I retreat a little further. I don't know why this works so well, but it does. The bottom of the cop stays nice and solid, and nothing slips or slides at all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tricksy Knee Socks - Part One

Lessons learned from my first pair of kneesocks --

  1. A leg that is too long is better than a leg that is too short. If the leg is too long, one can simply fold over a bit of the cuff at the top. Too short, and the sock bags, sags, and eventually slips down to the ankle.

  2. A nice tightly ribbed cuff at the top is essential. It helps to hold up the sock and it provides the necessary flexibility for the leg length.

  3. The shaping from knee to ankle should go from medium to large, back to medium, then down to small at the ankle. If it starts large and gets progressively smaller, same problem as #1 -- saggy, baggy, slidey sock.

I learned all these things in the usual way -- by screwing up. The pattern I selected ("Stockings with Clocks" from Nancy Bush's "Folk Socks"), while lovely, had some issues in the shaping department. The charmingly patterned cuff had zero elasticity.

And the shaping went from large to medium to small. And then I made the leg too short, which really didn't help. The end result was beautiful kneesocks that simply would not stay up. Sooooo.. . . here's the quick fix--

I picked up a bunch of stitches at the top (slightly fewer than I had cast on). Then I knit four inches of K2P2 ribbing. The ribbing can fold down over itself for a two-inch cuff or fold all the way down over the original decorative top. End result: lovely kneesocks that STAY UP!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Raving About Ravelry

Ravelry is great! Ravelry is cool! I received my invite a few days ago, after
only a month on the wait list (not bad) and promptly signed up. So far I have
loaded three stash items, one finished project, and three works in progress.
Doesn't sound like much, does it? Well, the joy -- and the pain -- of Ravelry
is the amount of detail you can/should enter for each project. Where did I buy
that yarn that's been sitting in the stash for a year? Um, uh, well, let me
think. Where do I generally buy yarn? Less than a dozen different places.
Usually. Which one was it? And what size needles did I use to knit those
socks? Hmmmm. I think I used #2's for the leg and #1's for the foot. And on
it goes.

The best part, especially for works in progress, is that once the project is
entered, you get a link that shows who else has knit or is knitting the same
pattern. The link leads to photos and descriptions of the knitters and the
projects. Fascinating.

There is a tendency to get sucked in by the glory of it all and neglect one's
knitting and other communications. In fact, I have noticed that some bloggers
-- especially newbies -- cease blogging altogether once they have joined
Ravelry. Naughty! Naughty!

So, I have taken the pledge: this very new blog WILL continue. And I shall
only add one new project per day (well, maybe two) to Ravelry.

Good intentions. Let's see what happens.