Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Nameless Socks are Named

The Nameless Socks are finished and, after much discussion with my fellow knitter, who has created a pair of Nameless Mitts in the same design, they have been named -- The Koan Socks. Why "koan"? Well, because a Zen koan is a theoretically unsolvable sort of riddle/question that you meditate on to come up with . . . not exactly an answer, but more of an insight that allows you to move on to another level. And the way this stitch pattern causes the leg of the sock to spiral (in two different directions, no less!) is definitely a puzzle.

Here they are.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used the stitch pattern from the Beaufort Hat to knit the first sock. That's the one on the left in the picture, the one that spirals counterclockwise. I won't repeat the pattern here, because you can find it at Knititude. Then to produce the second sock, I knit each row of the pattern backward [e.g. instead of "p3, k3, yo, k4, k2tog" I did "k2tog, k4 ,yo, k3, p3"], which causes the sock to spiral clockwise. It also gives the pattern a slightly different appearance, not so different that one would think the socks don't match, but noticeable. I actually prefer the reverse pattern. It is somewhat curvy on both sides, whereas the pattern on the first sock is straight along one edge.

Right now I have only one sock on the needles and that feels quite odd. Normally there are at least three pairs underway. But monogamy is providing its usual rewards, and the GreenApple socks are coming along quite fast. The yarn is Austermann Step in color #03 (how exotic is that? 'o3' – such a glamourous name), and the pattern is Broad Spiral Ribbing from More Sensational Knitted Socks. The pattern is easy enough, but I find it necessary to keep a close eye on what I am doing. The Step yarn is slippery, my Takumi bamboo needles have rather blunt points, and it's all too easy to split a stitch while executing the little twisty maneuvers that are called for on every other row.

I'm going to try to remain faithful to these socks until I have at least finished the first one. But then . . . well, I have some Dream in Color Smooshy in Chinatown Apple that I have been wanting to knit up for quite some while.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

ShadowBlock Socks Finished

The ShadowBlock Socks are officially finished. I say "officially" because they were actually done several days ago, but we've had so much rain that I've only just now been able to duck outside in a brief interval of sunshine to take the required photo. No project can be considered done, of course, until the object has had its photo op. Here they are.

I am even more pleased with this pattern (Cross-Stitch Block from More Sensational Knitted Socks) than I had expected to be. Rather than fighting the stripedness of the yarn, it seems to work with it. The horizontal lines in the block pattern go along with the stripes, and the vertical lines cut across. And I'm absolutely nuts about the little X's that pop splotches of white, gray, or black at the intersections.

I was a bit concerned about casting on 64 stitches. That's a lot for my skinny ankles; usually I don't go any higher than 60 stitches, no matter the needle size. But I used 2.0mm (U.S. 0), and the pattern pulled the stitches in just enough to give a perfect fit.

I did an Eye of Partridge heel for the first time ever in my sock knitting career, but alas it doesn't show up very well. If you look really, really hard, you can see that I did a round toe, but that isn't particularly visible either.

This is only the third pair of socks I have done with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, and I have mixed feelings about the yarn. Both multicolors were dreadfully stripey. But I liked the solid -- I knit a variation on the Pomatomus pattern in Firefly and was really happy with the result. Nice tight gauge, terrific stitch definition, and I adore that mustard yellow color. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but it suits me. I'm also quite fond of puke green.

And I suppose I must mention (however painful it may be) that I did not make it to Stitches West. Nasty flu. Faugh! Do NOT want to talk about it. For a full report see Message in a Bottle. She had a great time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A New Traveling Sock for Stitches West

In honor of our departure tomorrow for Stitches West, I've decided to cast on a new pair of traveling socks. Although the ShadowBlock socks, which I am planning to wear on the trip with my black-and-white slacks, are not quite finished, they will be soon – either prior to departure or on the boat to the mainland.

The new socks will look somewhat like these – same pattern and yarn, but different colorway. The pattern is "Broad Spiral Ribbing" from More Sensational Knitted Socks. It's amazingly simple to produce such a pretty rib.

I'll be using Austermann Step in color #03, which looks much lovelier in person than in this pic. There are tons of little rust flecks throughout the various shades of green. And the spiral ribbing pattern really makes the rust color pop.

In other knitting news, I have finished the body of the Clock Vest. All that remains is to bind off the shoulders, finish the armholes and the neck, and create the button bands. I still don't know exactly how to handle the button-band issue. Much will depend on how the vest fits after the shoulders are connected. As for the buttons themselves -- I'm counting on finding something nifty at the Stitches Marketplace. I've no idea what would look good. The embossed pewter buttons shown in the pattern illustration are a little too 'folksy' for my taste. But one couldn't go too modern either, not and stay within the spirit of the garment. Hopefully the exactly right buttons will call out to me from one of the booths.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Price of Yarn

I've been spending a lot of time lately window shopping for yarn. There are two projects at the top of my Ravelry queue that require "sweater quantities" of yarn (although neither is an actual sweater). Having become seriously addicted to socks over the past two years, I'm out of the habit of purchasing more than 100 grams at a time.

First we have the Alicia Tabard from the Winter issue of Interweave Knits (and also in "Knitting Little Luxuries" by Louisa Harding). I love this pattern, although my very first alteration will be to add side pieces to connect the front and back squares. The slim young lady in the picture is welcome to display her hips like that, but not this broadbeamed old broad, oh no. The yarn called for is (not surprisingly) Louisa Harding Grace, 11 balls for my size. Most webshops sell this wool/silk blend for about $10 per ball, so that would be $110 to create this lovely garment. OUCH! Must. Find. Substitute. Yarn.

Another project I'm panting to start is the Highland Triangle Shawl from Cheryl Oberle's "Folk Vests." The yarn specified in this pattern is Woolpak N.Z. 8 ply (DK), which generally retails for just under $20 per skein. Seems expensive at first glance, but these skeins are over 8 ounces and contain 525 yards. The shawl requires only two skeins for a total cost of about $40. Not bad. But then I toss the stash and find a sample skein of Merino Style that I acquired from Knitpicks on a whim. It's a DK weight, so that would work for the shawl. It's soft, bouncy, and comes in a bunch of good colors. And it's only $2.49 for a 123-yard skein.

Now I need my calculator. Okay (525 X 2)/123 = 8.5 skeins. So we have to round up to nine skeins (leaving aside the question of whether one needs the entire 1,050 yards of Woolpak or whether one simply needs some portion of the second skein). Nine skeins @ $2.49 gives a total of $22.41. That's a better number. Along the way, of course, I checked out a passel of other yarns and was constantly stymied by variation in put-up. Different yardage per skein, weight per skein, yardage per ounce – all within the same general yarn-weight category (DK, worsted, etc.) -- makes it difficult to compare prices.

I ended up calculating "cents per yard" for each yarn I considered. Probably sounds excessively geeky, but consider your local grocery store. Do they not have little "price per ounce" (or whatever unit of measure is most appropriate) tags on the shelves? As I recall, this feature – which allows us to determine whether the 10-oz can of Brand X peas is a better deal than the 12-oz can of Brand Y peas – was required as part of the deal when supermarkets were allowed to cease marking the price on individual products (anyone remember that guy in the aisle stamping the cans?). Why couldn't yarn retailers put price per yard on their labels? Or, better yet (says my inner geek), how about price per 10 yards. For instance, the Woolpak I mentioned above is 38¢ for 10 yards; the Merino Style is 20¢. Instant easy comparison.

I bet companies that have reasonably priced yarns would get behind such an initiative. And those who market "the name"? Well, there will always be folks who must have the Green Giant peas, no matter the price per ounce. What do you think?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Sock Riddle

What should you call a hat that you wear on your feet
When the wind stirs the waves and the pattern is sweet?

The answer is simple, and yet not so simple.

It all began with the Beaufort Hat designed by Knititude and knit up – very nicely, I might add – by my neighbor Kat, who happened to mention that it was a snug fit and that the child's size, which specified a 60-stitch cast-on, had been found to be waaaaay too small by many knitters. What caught my attention here was the number '60.' That's a sock. To a sock fanatic, of course. And the stitch pattern is lovely.

But I noticed that the wavy bits seemed to spiral slightly toward the top of the hat. And I wondered if that was the result of the decreases for the crown or something else. I downloaded the pattern and had a look. Didn't see anything that would cause it to spiral. Some discussion ensued as to whether the pattern would spiral around the leg, and if so, how far.

The ultimate test was to knit the darn thing, so I grabbed some Lisa Souza Sock! out of the file drawer in which my sockyarn stash lives, whisked a set of 2.25mm DPN'S from the wine glass they customarily inhabit and cast on. I hurried through the ribbing, impatient to get to the actual pattern. After a few pattern repeats, things began to look interesting. And by the time I arrived at the heel, well, see for yourself -----

I didn't dare continue the pattern onto the instep, thinking it would wrap around the foot and cause all sorts of trouble, so I reverted to the 3X3 ribbing, which I guess I will carry forward to the end of the toe.

The second sock will have its own issues. Apparently the direction of the spiral can be reversed. I'm tempted to do that. It won't really matter which sock is the left or the right; they will both spiral out or both spiral in. Sounds too fun to resist.

So these are them. The nameless socks. They can't be Beaufort socks, because that's a hat. Normally I don't have any trouble tagging a name to a knitting project, but this one is giving me grief. Everything I come up with seems to be associated with a well-known pattern, and I don't want to use something that will lead astray a Googler. Waves, wind, ocean, spirals, swirls . . . . Aaaarrgh. I feel as though there is some madly original concept just out of reach.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Back From the Frog Pond -- and Another FO

The Lorna's Laces 'Shadow' has returned from the Frog Pond with a new pattern. It's Cross-Stitch Block from "More Sensational Knitted Socks," and I think its going to work out well. I cast on 64 stitches, which seemed like a lot, but on 2.0mm needles it's fine. I knit these few inches, had a try-on, and put this project officially into WIP status.

I put the socklet onto a blocker for the pic to show off the pattern, which is extremely cool. It's a very easy knit – 14 rounds, with only one that is at all tricky. That's the round where you take stitches that have been slipped for the past 4 rounds and cross them to make those nifty little X's.

And in other breaking news ------ Both Ribby Kneesocks are finished. Here's the proof (in classic "toes up" position).

And, of course, we need a close-up of the foot to show off the lovely ribbing that continues all the way down to the very end of the toe.

And from the back we have – increases and decreases for the calf.

I'm not sure how well these socks are going to stay up. In theory, all that ribbing should do the job. But in practice – well, they feel less snug than the Aslan Kneesocks. A few trips through the wash and a bit of jumping up and down will tell the tale. And if they don't perform, I have plenty of the multi-colored yarn with which to make a snug add-on cuff, as I did for the Clock Stockings.