Thursday, March 29, 2007

My First Pair of Socks

It's been a long story (see part 1 and part 2), but I finally have a pair of finished socks. (The photos are pre-blocking.)

And, despite my protestations, the ribbing does fit my big calves. But I sized them for my daughter, so they are too short for my big feet, which means I can't accidently keep them for myself.

When I read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules! (see review), I struggled with the chapter on socks because I had not knit any yet. Tonight I reread that chapter, and now it makes sense. Especially the part about sock knitting being addictive: I am halfway through sock #2 of my SO's Magic Stripes socks and I can't wait to start on a pair for myself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Trouble with Socks

The trouble with socks is you can't knit just one. Unlike potato chips, it's not that you can't stop at one because they are so irresistable (which I find they are). Rather, it is because one sock is not much use except for hanging on the mantle at xmas time.

This subject came up at the last basic sock class. The instructor's strategy is to start both socks at the same time, using two sets of needles, and alternate working on each. A mother and daughter in the class wished they had picked out the same yarn, as then they would have a complete pair between them. I've read about knitting two socks at once on circular needles, but haven't investigated this method as I have yet to complete my first pair.

Prior to the last class session, my co-worker and classmate suggested knitting up to the kitchener stitch at the end of the toe beforehand. I agreed this was a good idea. In fact, I deemed it such a good idea that I did the same for the Magic Stripes sock. Because of my foresight, I had the opportunity to practice the kitchener stitch twice, although once you know what to do, it's not all that difficult (like most things).

However, I continue to be an idiot unmindful (see previous installment of the sock story). I started sock #2 of the Ann Norling pattern, advanced several inches into the leg, then spied a clutch of errors about five rounds back. I set it aside and knitted several inches of the Magic Stripes sock #2. Today I picked up the Ann Norling again, tried to correct the mistakes without frogging, gave up, frogged, picked up stitches, tinked another round, and reknit all the lost rows. (I have done this enough now that it is getting easier if not less frustrating.) Then I picked up Magic Stripes sock #2 again and discovered I had cast on the wrong number of stitches. I frogged again. *sigh*

I don't know why I didn't notice the miscounted cast on when I divided the stitches among the DPNs, but I suspect I suffered from multiple-sock-knitting confusion. The Ann Norling uses 2x2 ribbing, the Magic Stripes 1x1. AN casts on 64, which translates to 16 stitches per needle; MS casts on 56, or 14 stitches per needle. There are other differences as well, so maybe I should finish one before the other, just to be on the safe side.

Friday, March 16, 2007


by Jennifer Stafford

Maybe it's just me.

Maybe I am too influenced by my hippie-dippy past to be comfortable with the language in this book. Not the sexual innuendo language, but the violent language regarding the relationship between knitter and knitted. I don't want to force the yarn to do my bidding; I want to become one with my knitting.

And maybe I am too Midwestern to imagine wearing most of the items in this book. Even my sophisticated daughter didn't find any of the patterns appealing. My only exception might be the L'il Red Riding Hoodie (I like the pockets). And I suspect that the color insets featured in the Swizzle Vest and Diva Halter would be slimming.

And maybe this dog is too old to learn new tricks. I use the long tail cast on almost exclusively, but when I tried the author's method, I could not figure it out from the photos. And her mattress stitch is different from my mattress stitch. But I could have used her explanation of seaming garter stitch when constructing the baby hoodie.

But I like the idea of knitting clothes that flatter and fit, and that is really what this book is about. So many knitting patterns are just so... barely wearable. When I progress beyond the hat, sock, and baby sweater phase, I may check this book out again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not My Bag

I made myself a Fat Bottom bag (that has yet to be lined), and I offered to make one for my daughter. No, it's not finished, either, but I have purchased all the supplies. For some reason, when I drive past Joann, my car automatically turns. I did manage to get away without adding to the yarn stash.

I also made my first (and last?) trip to Hobby Lobby. My impression was that it is not a hobby store but a home decor store that happens to sell hobby supplies on the side. But they did have Hilos La Espiga Nylon no. 18, which is for the Exchange Bag, another SnB project from Happy Hooker. This one is for my SO's granddaughter.

While the resulting fabric is quite spectacular, the means to get there is painful. I have to rest my hands after every two rounds. Getting old is hell.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sock It to Me!

For one of my New Year resolutions, I signed up for a basic sock class at my LYS, but could not wait, knitted some slipper socks, which gave me an inflated sense of confidence, so I started a sock project on my own, the Magic Stripes sock that uses Magic Stripes yarn (natch!) from Lion Brand. Between the Magic Stripes and the class, however, I've discovered I have a lot to learn about knitting socks.

The Magic Stripes sock has been a real... challenge. I frogged my first attempt because I had not swatched and my brand new size 3 Crystal Palace bamboo needles were in reality closer to being size 3.5. The result was baggy ankles.

I restarted with size 2 needles, switched back to the size 3 for the heel flap because the stitches were just impossibly tight, but otherwise am right on gauge. After my eye appointment, I tried to adjust my knitting posture, and my knitting tightened up, so I stopped until I decide what to do. A few nights later I dreamed that I started to frog the sock again, but when I reached the heel flap, I screamed, "No-o-o-o-o!!!" No way was I ever going to do that heel flap again! (Except when I knit sock #2.)

In class we are using an Ann Norling pattern for adult socks (designer: Deridre Wallace). The first thing I noticed was this pattern is more generic than I am used to. The Magic Stripes pattern makes generous use of markers and instructs the knitter to knit to here and knit to there with precision, so one doesn't have to think too much about what one is doing. The Ann Norling pattern, however, uses no markers, so one has to pay attention to what is going on. This is a good thing.

One thing I learned in the first class was how to avoid that little gap when joining ends in circular knitting: on the first stitch when joining, knit both the yarn and the tail for one stitch, then knit them together on the next round. This makes a small but tidy difference.

The second thing I learned is that watching the colors emerge as one knits self-striping socks is mesmerizing. I'm using Online Klaus Koch Supersocke 100 Tropic.

Since the Magic Stripes pattern uses stockinette stitch for the leg, I decided to rib the leg on the Ann Norling, just to be different. And do they look different! The Ann Norling looks like it is made for an anorexic pixie. Yes, it stretches, but not enough for my leg because I am 30 pounds overweight and I have big calves (but not cankles). The socks may fit my daughter, whose weight is just right. We'll see. I am limiting the length of the leg to six inches, just in case.

The heel flaps between the two patterns are different as well. From what I have observed, the Ann Norling method of slip 1, knit 1 on row 1, slip 1, purl across on row 2 is fairly common and produces a nicely padded heel flap. The Magic Stripes pattern instructs the knitter to slip 1, purl 1 on row 2, which creates a very tight, very dense fabric. I found the heel flap so difficult to knit that I actually wrote Lion Brand to find out if this was correct, and they claim it is. I'll be curious to see how the two heel styles feel and whether one outlasts the other.

Regardless of which pattern I am knitting, I am capable of screwing up. The Ann Norling heel flap was much easier to knit, but while turning the heel, I did something wrong (actually, I was trying to talk and knit at the same time, a hazard of knitting with others) and wound up with a lopsided cup. I started tinking, then decided it would be easier to just frog back to the heel flap. Wrong! I spent the bulk of the second class session recovering from that little fiasco, while the rest were flying past the cup and into the gusset. Once home, I gave it a rest, then managed to get back on course.

I tried Magic Stripes sock #1 on this morning and realized I am much closer to the toe than I realized. These are for my SO, and in the course of making them, we discovered our feet are the same length, Yes, along with big calves, I have big feet.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How Sweet It Is!

This is the "Sweet Cherries" blanket from Lion Brand. It's one of those mindless, knit-every-stitch projects, but with four colors in two kinds of yarn in four color combinations, it required a lot of yarn wrangling, which made it definitely non-portable. After a while, I took to lining up the yarn at one end of the couch and protecting it from the cat (who has her own idea of yarn wrangling) with a pillow when not actively knitting.

The pattern called for 6 rows of melon and fuchsia, 1 of melon and french vanilla, 2 of pastel pink and french vanilla, and 2 of pastel pink and fuchsia. Well, that singleton made it next to impossible to carry the yarn up the side, plus I didn't like the way it looked, so I changed the singleton to a double. Also, the pattern called for casting on in melon and french vanilla, then immediately switching to the 6-row color combination. I didn't like the way that looked, either, so I cast on in melon and fuchsia. I also ended with the six-color stripe because that is when I ran out of melon, an event I anticipated thanks to my new scale.

It was early in my new-found passion for knitting when I ran across this pattern. The online photo showed three different blankets in one picture, and since I couldn't decide which one to make, I ordered the yarn for all three. (In case you haven't noticed, I tend to take things too far.) One down, two to go, but I'm going to take a break first.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Since I bought a notebook computer and started knitting (two unrelated events that occurred about the same time frame), my eyes have suffered. Or rather, my eyes are causing me to suffer. After an extended period of time at either the PC or the yarn, my vision is extremely fuzzy when I look up. This blurring lasts long enough to be annoying. And sometimes, when I am being particularly obsessive about a heel flap or solitaire game, my eyes positively ache.

I complained about the discomfort at work and discovered that others in my age range suffer from the same affliction. One fellow went to his optometrist, but neglected to mention the blurred vision. He did get a new pair of glasses, but says they don't really help that problem much. Since we have vision insurance here and it had been over two years since my last exam, I decided to visit my optometrist, but unlike Dan, I would whine loud and long about my vision.

Well, it didn't do me any good. My prescription does not need to be changed and "office glasses" would probably not help, but if I wanted to update my current glasses, they could adjust where the blending of my trifocals occurs in order to accommodate the way I hold my head. For $600, I could just change the way I hold my head, so I left empty handed.

At noon, when I picked up my knitting, I deliberately kept my hands closer to my lap than my nose and held my head up while looking down through my glasses. It felt awkward, but doable. But oddly enough, the change in posture affected my knitting, making it more dense. The sock I happened to be working on had required a drop in needle size to obtain gauge, but now it looked like I would have to chuck the 2's and return to the 3's if I wanted the stitches to be consistent. That's assuming I don't drift back into my slumping, head-drooping ways, especially before finishing the second sock. Hmmm. What to do?

So I did what any self-respecting knitter would do: I grabbed a crochet project from the knitting satchel to work on until I make up my mind.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Weighing on my Mind

I am an unabashed fan of the Yarn Harlot. Recently, she received a new scale, so (copycat that I am) I bought one for myself. Mine (from Target) is not nearly as cool as hers, but now that I have it, I wonder why a scale is not a requirement for all knitters. It immediately relieves that am-I-going-to-run-out-of-yarn angst and answers the eternal are-we-done-yet question.

For example, I am knitting a sock from a skein that is supposed to contain all the yarn that is needed to create two socks, but the skein seems to be shrinking too quickly. Plop the skein on the scale, though, and I can see that the almost-done sock has used 40 grams of a 100 gram skein. Or when will the 4-color baby blanket be done? I plan to end the blanket when I use up the melon, as it is the color that will run out first. I weigh the ball, knit a row, weigh the ball again, and voila, I see that I have enough yarn to repeat the 12-row pattern three more times.

This is the perfect gift for the anal retentive in your life!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My First Sweater

This is a sweater I made for my father in the late 70's, before I had kids. On a recent visit, Dad was decluttering his house and encouraged us to take stuff we wanted. Not wanting the sweater to end up in the Goodwill (not that that would be a bad thing, I just wanted it back), I asked if he still had it. He said, "Sure. I don't wear it anymore. Do you want it?" Well, yeah.

Looking at it now, I am amazed that I had the chutzpah to even contemplate such a project. I don't remember how I learned to knit (self-taught?) and I don't remember knitting anything else besides cotton dishcloths, but for some reason I thought this sweater was within my abilities. It is mostly reverse stockingnet, with ribbed cuffs and bottom band and collar. Cables run up the front and around the shoulders. Not knowing any better, I whip stitched the seams.

If I remember correctly, this was supposed to be a Christmas gift but it wasn't quite done, so I pulled out the pieces so we could test the fit. I do remember the look on Dad's face when he saw it. Priceless.

The tunic length and shawl collar are back in style now, so I wear it on occassion. It is incredibly warm. Even though it is made of Coats and Clark Red Heart acrylic, Dad had stored it in mothballs, so it smells faintly of camphor. He wore it through the oil crisis, to keep warm in the evenings. I hope it warmed his heart as well.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Random Thoughts

Ordinarily, I limit my posts to this blog to completed projects, but right now I don't have anything ready to fall off the needles. So here are some random thoughts about knitting.

Last night I realized there is a dark side of me that would rather knit than do anything else. I'd rather knit than eat, I'd rather knit than sleep, I'd rather knit than vacuum (well, that goes without saying). It's an obsession.

And I like to listen to music while I knit, preferably folk music on WUMB. Now that I have DSL and an FM transmitter for my laptop, this is very doable and very enjoyable. What I particularly like about WUMB is they talk about/with singer/songwriters. I'm not a singer or a songwriter, but I am intrigued with the creative process and how to plug into those vibes. So now I can knit, listen to music, and contemplate the creative forces of the universe.

I also am willing to try to knit just about anywhere, although the bathroom is still ruled by crossword puzzles. Last night I took the dog to the vet (nail trim and anal gland check - ick) where sometimes the wait is a bit long, especially when I am their last appointment of the day. I took a sock to work on since I was up to the gusset and thought I could manage that with distractions (I was wrong about that - not only dropped a stitch on one DPN but picked up an extra on another DPN, which led to much confusion later on). Last week I tried to knit the same sock while sitting at a stoplight, but discovered that what seems like an interminable wait when I'm just staring at the traffic signal is but a brief moment when I am trying to pick up a project, arrange the yarn, settle the needles in my fingers, and start knitting. The week before, knitting was a godsend at the BMV. (Don't get me started! The people working there were unfailingly cheerful, however, even though it was the end of a long day for them. Oh, and the clocks are back.)

Some people can knit without looking at what they are knitting, at least if they are doing mindless garter or stockingnet, and these people can knit and read or knit and watch a movie. I do knit while watching football (hurray for instant replay!) but movies are such a visual medium that I need to keep my eyes on the screen. Also, I rent a lot of foreign films, which I refer to as "reading a movie". If I watched TV, I would knit then, but I prefer to avoid all that mind pollution.

Another time I have trouble knitting is when I am visiting with someone one-on-one, because eye contact is important (how do I know you are listening to me if you are not looking at me?) and like I said before, I cannot knit without looking at what I am knitting. But in group situations, knitting is a nice social crutch, better than a cigaretter and a martini. My eyesight may be a little fuzzy after an intense knitting stint, but at least I can drive home sober.

Sadly, until I sprout an extra pair of hands or learn to type with my feet, there is no way to knit and write, but at least I can write about knitting.