I’ve quit wondering what’s going to happen next around here. I got home a week ago from my 5th big trip this year, and I can’t believe I’ve not blogged a word about it! It’s been a brutal week, and this coming week doesn’t look like it’s going to be any easier, though hopefully it will carry less shock value. I’m to the point I’m half expecting to find out I’ve been an unknowing victim of some peculiar TV reality show – perhaps a twisted version of Survivor blended with Candid Camera, where instead of eating truly gruesome foods, unknowing participants are subjected to a continued onslaught of very stressful events, which blind-side them with their unexpectedness.

That said, this post isn’t about my recent trip or my head-shaker of a week – past or coming. Instead, I thought I’d spread a little bit of my weekend sunshine around. As tough as it was for me to change gears when I discovered on Tuesday that I’d totally forgotten registering for a full weekend workshop our knitting guild sponsored this weekend, I’m really glad I didn’t cancel out on it. We had Candace Eisner-Strick come in for 12 hours of classes, and despite the fact that I was battling a migraine, I managed to learn some really great new knitting tricks. Can’t wait to incorporate them in some real knitting!

Saturday was a bit frustrating for me. Our class was on Bavarian Traveling Twisted Stitches – or some permutation of those words. For me, the concept was very simple to grasp, and an hour long class would have been more than sufficient on the topic, but there are a lot of different combinations of learning style and experience in a group that large, and Candace wanted to take the time to ensure every student succeeded, so the class was a six-hour venture that left me very glad I’d brought along my Baby Surprise Jacket to knit. I nearly finished the BSJ, and I also made the sampler just below. I’m glad I attended, even if I did feel like it was moving too slowly most of the time. Whereas I’d have had no problem doing this alone, having the day away from the house with this being my primary goal made it actually happen. Considering I’ve had two of the best pattern books for Austrian knitting on my library shelf for at least a couple years, I think I needed the kick in the pants to actually do it!

I know – doesn’t really look like much, does it? It’s just one repeat of each of 11 different stitch patterns set one after the other, so they aren’t very distinct for the most part. Today I started working to separate each pattern with a basted contrast strand, and for this post, I put a straight line between each of the designs. We worked the patterns in the round with three identical patterns, so in all, each was worked 3 times. I really wish it was a technique that lent itself to back and forth knitting, so I could see what three repeats looked like worked in succession instead of side by side, but I’ll have to wait until I produce a real project, I suppose.

Candace does her twisted stitch knitting in a non-traditional way, twisting the stitches differently for left travelers than right travelers. I want to play with some samples done in the traditional fashion as well, with all the stitches twisted the same way, as apparently the Austrian queen of this technique wasn’t particularly keen on this alternative look. Me being me, I’m going to have to play with it both ways. 😉 I suspect I’ll be happy with both, and I will choose when I wish to use each style. I wouldn’t dare use the modern take on it to knit a sweater for an antique German doll, after all!

Sunday there were technically two separate 3-hour workshops, though the edges sort of blended together in the end. The first of these two, titled “Traditions!” was unquestionably my favorite of all, and the best reason for me to have invested a weekend in these workshops. Candace led us through 5 traditional techniques, 3 of which were entirely new to me, and one of which was presented with a tidbit of info that I needed to have known long before now.

First we did the Channel Island cast-on. It’s just a dab more fussy than most other cast-ons I’ve used, but not that much slower once I learned how to hold my tongue just right. We used it both as a base for ribbing and as a provisional cast-on later in the day, and although I’m not totally smitten with the provisional use, it looks so gorgeous with ribbing that I’m definitely sold there, and I wonder if I’ll be able to use anything else when I’m ribbing in the future. It’s definitely worth the effort in this application!

The Fair Isle Corrugated Ribbing was… well… a wee bit of a trial for me, as I didn’t see what was happening until I was done with it. One thing we learned later on during the Norwegian Lice segment is that when you are knitting with two colors, the strand that is running in the lower position on the back is the one that will have the larger, dominant stitches on the front. (This totally explains a minor disaster I had earlier this year…) You don’t have to be an expert to see that I must have swapped the positions of my two colors on each row I knit on my corrugated ribbing. In my defense, this ribbing was never meant to be knit flat, but because of time constraints, we were doing precisely that. Knit in the round, there wouldn’t be a nasty backside row teasing me into swapping colors to the opposite hand in order to avoid purling continental…

It’s a toss up as to whether I love the Channel Island with ribbing or the Latvian Braid more.  Both are pure knitting magic! We were to make one braid, but I decided to double mine, reversing the direction of the second one. I’m definitely going to have to find a good place to use this wonderful little trick in the future!

I skipped the the fourth tradition – knitting a swatch of Old Shale. Having just finished an entire shawl in that pattern, I figured my time was better spent working on the BSJ… 😉 The last item on the agenda was the Norwegian Lice. Of course, the bit about the lower yarn color being dominant was the big surprise in this part of the lesson. I hadn’t expected to learn anything doing such a simple pattern, and must confess to an internal eye roll when I saw it on the list. 😉 Live and learn! Candace also took a moment to show me that there really IS a quick and easy way to lock a long float into the back of of colorwork when it’s the right hand yarn that needs anchored – yet another tidbit that was nearly worth the price of the entire workshop for me. 🙂

Sunday’s second segment was focused on two of the primary uncommon techniques in Candace’s newest book, Strick-ly Socks. She’s worked out an unusual way to knit the toe (and the heel the same way), which allow them to be started flat. It’s pretty slick, once you get the basics worked out, and I bought her book, figuring I need to try a whole pair out, if nothing else, just for the experience. I’m always game to try something new. 🙂 If you like to knit toe up socks, but you aren’t comfortable with any of the normal starts, don’t give up until you give this one a try, as it’s a totally different way to go.

You probably can’t tell a thing from this photo (Try clicking to make it full sized?), but we also used a totally new to me method of binding off, too. It works, and it looks pretty good, but the jury is still out as to whether I will embrace it in the long run or stick with my comfortable Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off that has been serving me so well. Jeny’s is definitely faster, and I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve cut a long enough piece of yarn, but Candace’s does work, is rather tidy, and is also very stretchy. It’s definitely worth trying out if  you are the curious sort of knitter. 🙂

So, although I felt like Saturday dragged terribly and I had to drive into the city two consecutive days, I do feel that over all, my weekend was very well spent, and I’d definitely recommend Candace’s workshops – especially Traditions! since it was my very favorite. Each had much to offer if you have interests in the areas covered, and I know that I have come out of my class time a better knitter than I was. 🙂


Totally Infatuated

I just finished the second pair of socks for my daughter, and I’m so totally in love with them that I couldn’t give them to anyone else in the world but her, I don’t think. I have to get another skein of this yarn. I want to make a slightly smaller pair for myself very badly! Although I’ve not made that many pairs of socks, this is undoubtedly my very favorite of what I’ve done. I have to keep reminding myself that it would be tacky to wear them before I had them over to her. 😉

Like the first pair, these are knit from Lorna’s Laces Shepherd’s Wool, which is a worsted weight yarn. (Ravelry calls it aran.) This gorgeous colorway is darker and richer in person, but I’ve still not gained control over my new camera to the point of getting true colors in most of my pix, especially when it’s gray and spring drizzly outdoors. I used the Purple Iris colorway, and it’s gorgeous! It took about 1.35 skeins to make these, but she has 10.25″ feet with a 9.5″ midfoot, so not small socks. The pattern is again from Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I was going to just use  the Riverbed Master pattern, then succumbed to Rushing Rivulets – a slight variation to Riverbed, in that Cat provides a very simple lace pattern to work on the instep. This is not a pattern for someone who can’t read their knitting! To begin, the lace is worked on the original half of the stitches that form the instep, but the increases on this pattern are on the sole, and as they are worked, the original sole stitches begin to become instep stitches, though they remain on the sole needle. It’s important to keep track of how many stitches belong on the sole and to expand the lace on each side, wrapping it around as it’s knit – all this while also keeping track of which rows receive increases. It’s not impossible, but not good first pattern, either. I found it well worth the effort in the end, though!

Other pattern notes… I used the standard toe, but put the increases two stitches in from the edge instead of just one. The heel is Eye of Partridge. I finished with about an inch of 2 x 2 ribbing and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off. I did one thing slightly different this time, and it made things substantially easier – thankfully! On the other pair, when I reached the ribbing, I was ready to tear my hair out in frustration. I can generally managed two socks on two circs without much problem from tangling, but no matter what I did on these, I seemed to have a bird’s nest of cables and yarn on every single round in the ribbing. The only thing I could figure is that it had something to do with the last stitch one one side being a purl and the first on the other being a knit. This time, when I reached the ribbing, I started with K1, then went to P2, K2, ending each side with K1 – in other words, just shifting the start of the ribbing by one stitch. It worked perfectly smoothly – not a single tangle – so it was a good move on my part. 🙂

Oh, and here’s the Ravelry link if you need it.

Socks R Me

I can’t believe I’ve not finished the half written post I’ve had all week! I still need to do it soon, but since I’ve promised to blog at least once each week this year, and I’m not possessing a lot of time at the moment, I’m just going to share my current, unexpected knitting frenzy – socks! What’s unexpected is that although I have 3 pairs of socks on my goal list for this year, those are socks for me, and these are socks for someone else. The irony here is that I adore my hand knit socks, but I’m not fast at knitting them, nor have I managed to become addicted to the process yet, so I have exactly two pairs to my name. I wash one while wearing the other – not always easy to manage, but my feet are spoiled rotten, and they don’t like me when I put those Walmart things on them any more. 😦 Under these circumstances, the LAST thing I ever expected was to be making socks to give away. However… well… when my daughter was home on furlough, she sort of gave me this look… then picked out some yarn… and now I need to make socks for her, which I’m calling her birthday gift, and I need to get them done quickly! Thankfully, she wants thick, warm, smooshy, colorful socks, so she chose worsted weight yarn in fun colors. Silly me, though… I thought I could whip up a pair on Sundays during the Ravelympics! Did I mention I’m a VERY slow sock knitter? And I’m still not quite ready to think about what happened during the Ravelympics yet!

This past week, I realized these socks really need to be done quickly, beings as I’ve already missed her birthday and will be seeing her fairly soon, so during the week, the first pair went from being toes to socks, and the second is following quickly in their footsteps, while I do little else but knit and catch up a bit from February.

These are knit from Lorna’s Laces Shepherd’s Worsted Multi in the Watercolor colorway. We have large feet in our family, so I ended up using a little more than a full ball of yarn, making me glad I bought two. With an average sized foot, I suspect one would have been plenty, but when you are knitting for a 10.25″ foot with a 9.5″ midfoot circumference, it really eats up the yarn!

I used Cat Bordhi’s Upstream Master Pattern with a standard toe, except I did my increases two stitches in from the edge instead of just one, in order to produce a somewhat deeper toe box. When I started the arch expansion increases, I used purls for the second companion row between the increases rather than knits. The heel is Eye of Partridge, which I think looks really nice in this yarn, the ribbing is 3×1, since she wants these primarily as bed socks and I didn’t want them to be overly tight. I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off for the first time on a pair of socks, and I’m quite pleased with the results. With this heavier yarn, it gave a sweet ruffled look to the top edge, and I like it a lot.

I’m hoping in a few days to have a second completed pair of socks to share, but for now, I’ll just show you the toe picture I took a couple days ago.You will also note that I’m doing two socks on two circs. Although I don’t enjoy this nearly as much as I enjoy working with DPN’s, I’m realistic enough to know this is likely the only way I’ll actually get them both done before my deadline, and at least I don’t have to think the pattern through twice this way. The increased speed from that probably counters the frustration I have from spending so much time trying to keep my needles and two ends of yarn from the same ball from tangling… I hope! Anyway, I mentioned this because I wanted to point out that Cat’s book does not share info on knitting socks two at a time. If you want to use one of her fantastic patterns two at a time, you can make it work, but you should expect to learn the technique somewhere else. Her book is written for both circs and DPN’s, just not details on two at a time.

While working on these for her, I’m daydreaming about making my own two pairs, too, though that isn’t going to happen right now, nor so quickly, no matter how much I wish it. I’m not quite so high of a priority in this arena, so will have to wait patiently in line. 😉

The Sun Also Shines!

I’ve had these pix for a couple of days, but I’ve been too busy to get them posted. The day after the storms last weekend, it was sunny out, and the sky was an impossible blue. Not surprisingly, I simply had to snap a few more pix with this delightful third background.

Love this guy’s character!

Some things my new camera actually does very well! 🙂

I’ve been wearing my Changeling Socks a lot this winter, and absolutely loving them. 🙂 These are the socks I made under a bit of duress. My students wanted to make socks, and I wasn’t in the mood, but I didn’t tell them that. Instead, I bought some Wendy Guernsey wool from Schoolhouse Press and made the project a bit more fun by dyeing some of it to accent my socks. I started out with a KAL, but quickly decided that they just weren’t going to fit me correctly, so somewhere in the midst of the overly pointy toe, I reverted to Cat Bordhi’s Ridgeline pattern, which, of course, was a perfect fit – if you don’t look at the toes, that is. 😉 The pattern change is what inspired me to name them Changeling Socks, one definition of changeling being something that changes from one thing into another. What you can’t see is the bubbled, peekaboo ankle stripes. More pix here on Ravelry.

One additional comment on the socks… If you noticed a little spare color bleeding into the white, I rushed the dye job, and I suspect now that I didn’t nuke it quite long enough, and possibly didn’t rinse them thoroughly. If that wasn’t enough, the second time I washed them, I didn’t splash any vinegar into my rinse water. They don’t look quite as sharp now, but they are still delightfully warm and comfortable.

Magic Flute

I had a perfectly lovely day! It didn’t start out that way at all. And for that matter, it also involved a long drive through falling snow at night, so it had a lot going against it. However, the positives condensed into about 5 hours this afternoon rather overwhelmingly outweighed the negatives, providing me with a day I’ll remember for years to come. 🙂

  1. A man waved me ahead of him at the bank when I was running rather late.
  2. I started my second series of lace knitting classes at my LYS (an hour away) teaching students’ choice of Concerto or Symphony to 10 lovely ladies – good company, knitting, teaching, and income all rolled into one!
  3. I got a Subway meatball marinara flatbread for supper – and they had plain Sunchips!
  4. I got my first spontaneous compliment on a handknit shawl from a total stranger – and a potential 11th student at the same time!
  5. When my Goals support buddy (aka dear friend Joy) came up with the brilliant idea of tracking our goals in a pocket planner, I immediately added one to my shopping list to pick up after class. Shortly after walking into my LYS, though, Arlene asked if any of us could use one of the pocket planners she’d been given – and one of them was green, no less!!!
  6. Sharing some support/info/chatter re: CSM’s after class with one of my students who knows FAR more about sock machines than I do, I suddenly found myself totally shocked when she be handed a pair she’d produced, saying I could give them a test run – WOW! (This made me the “victim” of THREE RAK’s in one afternoon!)
  7. And… I got a magic flute!

Okay… It’s not really magic – not the way most people would define that word, at least. For me, though, it’s total magic! You see, I’ve wanted a flute ever since I was 10 years old. I absolutely adored playing the flutophone back in fourth grade. It had been a required class for us, and for me it was a head over heels in love experience. I still l have my (totally unchewed) flutophone, and I’m not above getting it out to play four decades after my last class. I wanted to join the school band and play the flute in the absolutely worst way, come fifth grade, but my parents refused to let me, citing the very non-marchable piano in the living room, which, my mother claimed, would provide me with far more useful skills in the long run. From this side of history, I’m not sure that the skills of learning a very solitary instrument was as advantageous to me as being part of the social structure provided by the school band would have been, and although I still enjoy playing the piano, it’s never been a heart and soul sort of thing for me. I don’t regret my (very limited) piano playing skills, but to this day, I truly feel they should have allowed me a second instrument, especially since the spark of my passion never really waned.

A few years ago, it suddenly dawned on me (duh!), that there wasn’t a reason in the world I couldn’t still learn to play the flute. I’d bought 4 different recorders, a tin whistle, and a Native American flute in the meanwhile, but had somehow relegated my flute to the fantasy file. Then one day I had the opportunity to handle an antique ebony and ivory flute, and  my heart fluttered, fanning the embers of my dream into a full fledged bonfire. After checking the prices, though, I decided I’d best relegate it to my Christmas list.

For three years, it was totally ignored by my entire family. Then, after a third disappointment a week ago, I had another one of those lightbulb moments. Craig’s List + Christmas money! Within minutes, I found one I could afford listed in Dayton, which was convenient, since I was going to be teaching up there again starting this week. A quick phone call to set things up left me sitting and staring dumbly at the calendar, wondering how I was going to bear the 4 day wait until Monday!

Happily, I survived the wait, and between my afternoon and evening classes, I braved the snow and went to complete my very first Craig’s List transaction. Believe me, it was difficult to focus on my students for the second class with my brand new flute laying on the table beside me!

On the other hand, can you believe that Arlene’s husband was in the store helping with inventory, and it turns out he used to play the flute?! After class, he gave me a few pointers to get me started, and with a bit of experimentation tonight after I got home, I managed to play Mary Had a Little Lamb without too many extra squeaks and whistles.

And then I did what any new mother would do. I took pix! I love how the light made it look golden. 🙂

The picture directly above shows why my little finger is now totally exhausted. There sure is a lot for it to do on these three keys!

This is truly my magic flute. It’s made a dream of more than 40 years come true! How much more magical could it be? 😀

As for that New Year’s goal about making music for at least as few minutes each week? Week one – accomplished and logged in my new pocket planner. I had a wonderful day!

Goals Post – Forward to 2010!

Perhaps this post should be titled “Living in Dreamland.” 😉 It’s unquestionably the most ambitious list of goals I’ve ever set out at the beginning of the year, and I’ve not ever completed my shorter lists, but my philosophy of goals remains that having a higher target means I hit more, even if I don’t complete them all. The most important factor for me is to remain realistic in that I remember it IS an overly ambitious list, and that anything I do accomplish is a victory; it’s not a defeat to not do all of it. These are goals to help me stay on track, not requirements that identify whether I’m a worthwhile person!

That said, here are my goals for 2010:

My online miniatures group is doing a goals based project, and we were asked to spell out five mini goals, so I will start with those:

  1. Finish the interior and/or exterior of Friendship Cabin, a Real Good Toys Adirondack Cabin that we started several years ago, but which has languished untouched since sometime before the beginning of 2009. Here’s the album where I chronicled our first days working on the project.
  2. Finish my Gail Wilson Hitty, which was started with enthusiasm during the online class, worked on for three nights, and now has the rest of the girls giving me “the look” for not getting their sister done. I have a little glitch in the painting, and since this is a challenging project for me anyway, the moment I encountered a problem, I put her away for a time when I could really feel relaxed. ‘Nuff said? :S
  3. Finish my Teresa Layman Cottage By the Sea project – actually barely started, and a massive project for someone who really doesn’t like embroidery or French knots. This will be a rug for Friendship Cabin.
  4. Finish my Boat Sampler – stitched on silk gauze – lots to go on it, but most of the hardest part is completed. Like the Layman project, I started this on our last cruise. Unlike the Layman project, I loved working on this one, so I did quite a bit more of it. Also belongs in Friendship Cabin, and perhaps will be finished on another cruise…
  5. Knit something tiny – size 4/0 needles or smaller – probably something for my future miniature yarn shop

Fiber Goals:

  1. See #5 in the miniatures
  2. Publish at least 4 knitting patterns – should actually be more than this, as I have 3 projects that just need the paperwork part of this goal in order to be ready. The paperwork is the hard part of course… I’m knitting my next shawl design right now, and I’ve promised another KAL for the spring, so I’m going to be busy with this!
  3. Finish my spinning wheel – I can’t believe this sat untouched for an entire year. Where on earth did the time go??? The staining is about half done, but it’s an involved project. Once that’s done, I need to finish and assemble it.
  4. Learn to use said wheel
  5. Knit a project from wool I’ve cleaned and spun, using a pattern I’ve designed – I have a bit of a jumpstart on this, as I’ve cleaned a goodly pile and picked some of it already.
  6. Stash all my yarn on Ravelry – yes, maybe I’ll get it completed this year… – Starting with 550
  7. Get competent purling continental. I think I need to have a dedicated project for this… maybe a washcloth. 🙂
  8. Make another 2 pairs of socks for myself (maybe I’ll get the next done before I wear holes in what I have?) This was one pair until a friend twisted my arm and said I should try for two – and one pair has to be top down, to boot! Bad thing here is that I also promised a pair to my daughter, so this means three pair this year, when I’ve never done more than one. Gulp!
  9. Finish at least 3 of the projects currently languishing in my WIP/UFO tubs – items started before July 1, 2009. This one will also be a challenge. I love the stuff in my UFO tub, even though it’s all pretty good at inducing guilt. I’ve found that designing really slows down the knitting, though, especially on other people’s patterns!

Other Creative Goals:

  1. Finish at least one of the remodeling projects… sigh… Acceptable candidates are the kitchen (which is in the impossible dream category), painting the door to my future studio (easy), or finishing the nook, laundry room, or my sewing room. Nook and laundry room both depend on hubby – most especially the nook – though I have a load of work to do in those two areas, too.
  2. Organize my computer photos, then print and label as I think necessary. I’m rereading this and laughing at the thought of actually getting it done, but…
  3. Spend at least a few minutes every week making music – LOVE doing this, but I’ve really ignored this part of my life for the last few years. Looking for a flute – like I need more instruments around here?
  4. Learn my new camera – for starters, needing to know why I can’t take a decent close up with a camera that cost this much!
  5. Make up a Gail Wilson kit – see mini goal #2
  6. Finish Reba – poor thing! Her sisters were finished in 2006 (pix in this album) but my teacher suddenly stopped classes with Reba just one firing away from being done. Every attempt I’ve made to get her fired since then has ended in failure. Need to get a kiln up and going here so I don’t have to depend on anyone else.
  7. Make a pair of socks on my CSM – This could be anything from amazingly easy to a terrible headache, based on things I’ve heard. First task is getting the new needles and such that I need.
  8. Probably crazy, but I joined a Navajo style weaving Yahoo group, and now I have the bug to weave something, even if it’s small. I’m torn between tri-loom and Navajo style, but would adore trying both. One item is enough to qualify.
  9. Move one of my dolls from hospital patient status to display status – maybe Aaron, so he can show off his adorable knitted romper? He is on this page.

Personal Goals – and these tend to have a very familiar ring to them:

  1. End the year 25 pounds lighter than I started it. Why is this so hard?!
  2. Read 100 books
  3. End the year debt free – both money and promises made
  4. Go somewhere new – state or country. I have a life goal of visiting all 50 states and all 7 continents, and I need to keep at it if I’m going to succeed!
  5. Clean out one of my email accounts – frighteningly big project, but I’ve made a lot of progress already in the first two days of the year. It’s amazing how quickly this can fall behind again, though.
  6. I have a challenge with a friend to blog at least once each week
  7. Solidly memorize the scripture verses on my calendar
  8. Get the treadmill inside – Sounds like no big deal, but it’s going to need cleaned up, and the area where it belongs is packed solid with things that don’t belong where they are – which aren’t where they belong because their spots are filled with stuff that doesn’t belong where it is, which… well… you get the idea!

Cast On Cast Off!

It’s no secret that by the end of the 17 days of Ravelympic project finishing, I wanted nothing more desperately that to cast on something – anything! In fact, I had plenty of good reason to do so, as all my primary projects were off the needles, so I had nothing for audiobook time or movie (or convention speech) time, or travel time. Needless to say, the first moment of knitting time I had when the big event was over, I cast off on a new knitting adventure.

Started project number one was a cinch. I’d put most of my shawl yarn away, but my Thórdís Icelandic Shawl kit was sitting temptingly on the sofa for at least the past two months, and I was hungry to dive into it. I did pause to question my sanity when I read that it required a cast on of 339 stitches, though. One of my smarter moves was to skim through the pattern, and I saw that later on, I was supposed to pick up 339 stitches along that edge. No question what turn that was going to take with me. I used a provisional cast on, which I do in my own special way. The first time I did a provisional, I used a piece of waste yarn and found it less than pleasant to even get the stitches from that onto my needle when the time came. Then I had a brainstorm. Next time, instead of using waste yarn, I used a spare cable from my Knit Picks Harmony needles, then put a cap on each end. It worked like a dream! I think it’s one of the brightest things I’ve come up with in terms of knitting, and I pat myself on the back every time I get to the point of retrieving the live stitches. All I do is remove the cap on one end and screw on my needle tip, and I’m set – 30 seconds! I’m sure others will start doing this eventually – or perhaps even are – but I’m happy to have come up with the idea on my own. :o)

Anyway, back to the cast on… I sure didn’t want to mess this one up, so I put what I believed to be 350 stitches on each needle, separated every 50 stitches by a marker to make it easier to double check myself. I counted it, then counted again as I knit my first row, then compulsively counted one more time. Only then did I take the last 11 stitches off the back end. It took a while, but it was worth it to have the peace of mind it gave me.

In general, this shawl has been moving along very quickly and easily. The pattern is pretty easy, combined with the chart, but I’m not sure I’d like to do without either one. I also believe there are a few errors in the chart, but I’ve become comfortable enough with lace knitting that I’ve been able to sort everything out. I’ve even had a first with this. After discovering an error that only I would see, but which would drive me nuts, I let 10 stitches drop for 8 rows, picked up the ninth row and re-knit that section, which, of course, had to be all in a lace segment. It took me about 90 minutes to get it right, but I’m so proud of myself for being brave and conquering something new, that the shawl almost became secondary to the achievement! I’m now working in the top section, which is a very easy to remember solid Shetland type pattern, so no patterns and quick knitting – and the rows are becoming blessedly shorter by 8 stitches every two rows. This is the perfect kick back and relax project for me, and I’m loving it!

A few days after that, it was time to cast on for my tote along/video time project. My problem was that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for this one. I finally settled on a simple razor shell scarf from Crystal Palace Kid Merino – very fuzzy lace on size 9 needles. I figured I should set it up and get comfortable with the pattern here at home before it started traveling with me. Turns out that was a very good idea. For some reason, I kept making little mistakes in my work, and as easy as the pattern was, I can’t figure why. Tinking was a nightmare, frogging impossible. I hated the way it was looking, despite having loved the one on display at Fiberworks. I gutted it out through 10 inches, willing myself to love my own just as well, but I was getting a strong urge to see if it would flush, so finally accepted that it was time to stop. I worked it back into yarn, and listed it on Ravelry dirt cheap, along with all the rest of the Crystal Palace Kid Merino I’d purchased. There are no two ways about it; I just hate knitting with super fuzzy yarn. :o* No gorgeous fluff of angora shawl for me, I’m afraid… My decision to frog the whole thing was so sudden and spontaneous that I didn’t realize until after the fact that I’d not even taken a picture…

Now it was back to the drawing board for an easy to take along project. I’m not comfortable enough with socks to tote those, yet, so I finally thought to cast on for a Baby Surprise Jacket from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s beloved pattern. Before you ask, no, there are still no grands on the way, but I’ve been itching to try this pattern since I first discovered it. The fascination of turning a knitted amoebus into a jacket enchanted me, and I thought with it being all garter stitch, it might travel well. I have a whole tub full of yarn bought for BSJ’s, so the biggest problem was deciding which was first. I finally settled on some Queensland Bebe Cotsoy, which I have to say is pure delight to have running through my fingers, and it’s adding more than a little energy to an already addictive pattern. My first big mistake was trying to cast on and set up the project while watching The Hunt For Red October, and it ended up taking me most of the movie before I was actually knitting. However, I’m buzzing right along now – if we don’t mention the 10 rows I frogged when I discovered that I’d slid by one stitch on my decrease. I know… I could have just slid back and been the only one who noticed it, but my grandma does this whisper in my ear bit from beyond the grave, so I fix whenever I possibly can. Thanks, Grandma…

Anyway, this isn’t going to be my tote along either, as I know full well that I’d knit right past the increase or decrease spot, and I have to keep too close of an eye on which row I’m working. It’s great for movie time, though, and I find myself wishing we’d watched the other political party’s convention, so I’d have had more speeches to knit through.

I’ve grown fond of picking up my sock project when I just want to knit for a few minutes or am listening to a knitting podcast. And I’ve also now spoiled myself rotten. I’d heard over and over again that once a person actually puts on a pair of handknit socks, they’ll be sold. I don’t know that I would guarantee it happens to everyone, but I’m totally smitten! I can scarce bear to take my one and only pair off, so it was mandatory that another pair go on my needles asap. After some debate, I decided my second pair would be another of Cat Bordhi’s patterns, since the Coriolis fit me so beautifully. Then I pawed through my sock yarn tubs for a ridiculous length of time and finally settled on some Panda Wool in a gorgeous brown and burgandy. The Fountain Foxgloves I’d chosen suggested the standard toe, and being one to like learning new things, I thought that was a good thing. I did my swatch, then figured out what I was supposed to do, grabbed two of my size 0 DPN’s and went for it with a Judy Becker Cast On, which I’m quite fond of, I will add. Seems it’s a good thing I’m fond of it, because picking up my needles was the last sane thing that happened for quite some time. The chore at hand was simply to put 6 stitches on each of two needles, knit down one and up the other, then back down again. Yeh… right… It turned out to be one of those times that I’m glad my hair was tied back. Otherwise, it would have been standing straight out on end like some gigantic halo, which based on my mood at the time, I most certainly didn’t deserve. I can’t ever remember having such a fight with my knitting, even with the first project I tried – self taught! One or another needle would pop out, stitches were committing suicide at an alarming rate, and I can now do Judy’s cast on with my toes, I’ve done it so often. However, I persevered, and after two hours, I was actually four rows into the toe increases – and breathing normally again. I tucked my little treasure away and put a few rows on my BSJ to unwind.

No, that’s not the end of the story…

The next day, with my car finally home from the mechanic, I decided I’d best make that run to my not quite so local yarn shop an hour away. An hour driving alone gives me too much time to think, and one of the things I thought was that it was going to take me a whole lot longer to make a pair of socks with dark brown yarn on size 0 needles with 9.5 stitches per inch than it took using medium dark blue at 7 stitches per inch – and I want new socks fast right now. So I forced myself (Wanna buy a bridge?) to buy another sock’s worth of Merino 5 while I was laying in some much needed laceweight yarns and some short DPNs and… Well, that’s another story…

Anyway, I dug my size 3 needles out again that evening, and checked my cast on numbers for the largeer gauge socks. As I started to put the requisite 10 stitches on each needle, I stopped dead in my tracks. 10??? Then it hit me… Two hours of wrestling with that sock the night before, and here I’d been supposed to cast on a whole lot more than 6 stitches – 12, to be precise. No, I don’t have a photo of the deceased sock toe in brown, either. Frogging it while humming taps gave me a moment to rethink things, though, and when I put the yarn up, I decided to dig out my two size 3 circular needles. Part of the struggle on that toe had been that I was trying to knit on one of two needles that was splinted to another, and if I used the circs, the “other” would be a flexible cable. I was right; it worked much more easily, and I actually got to keep my very first cast on!

This picture shows a rather embryonic sock. I’m getting close to the end of the toe increases now – thankfully. Absolutely no disrespect intended to those of you who love working socks on circs, but I have to say that I just plain do not. In fact, it drives me nuts – as far as that happens to be… It just seems so fiddly to have to push the stitches across the cable and up onto the other end of the needle constantly, and I find it more difficult to guard against laddering, too. I can’t wait to get past the increases and change back to my beloved DPN’s. I’m glad someone invented the technique of working on circs, as it unquestionably saved me on this project. I’ll use it as needed, I’m sure. And I certainly am not going to be judgemental toward anyone who prefers it – so long as they don’t give me a bad time for my DPN’s. I’ll even happily teach others how to do it. It’s just not my first choice for socks, and I’m in this for the fun!

And, I’m finally back to working on my spinning wheel! Yippee!!! Just wait’ll you see her!

Now what am I going to use for a tote along project???? Sigh… Suggestions?

In Disgrace

You know that sweet Bessie Pease Gutman picture of the little girl standing in the corner? She looks too angelic to have ever done anything wrong, but there she is, proving that it’s possible to look good and still be up to mischief. Obviously, my “Kathy’s Socks” are cut of the same cloth, as it were.

Perhaps you remember my agony a few weeks back when I found that the first sock didn’t fit over my instep, and I ended up frogging 240 lovely little cables. Well, they are all back in place, heel is turned, (after I finally figured out that there was an error in the pattern, one row having been omitted), and it fit, so I headed down the foot, stopping at one point to measure what I thought the pattern wanted me to know. I reached the place where my measurement indicated that the toe should start, switched from cables to stockinette, added a lifeline for good measure, and started my toe decreases. Halfway through shaping the toe, I just started getting an odd feeling that things weren’t right, so I tried it on – my left foot instead of my right foot…

Two big problems came to my attention immediately. One would have something to do with two very memorable moments of interruption while knitting:

Holey socky

Considering how fanatical I was about watching for yarnovers between needles, I was in total shock to see these two “interesting” design elements, which had been on the back side of my right foot, and escaped notice when I tried it on several times earlier. But thinking back and looking at where they are, I know how it happened both times. I’m more than a little unhappy about ripping out nearly the entire foot, and I’ve had enough experience ripping these tight cables to know that getting everything back on the needles isn’t going to be fun. I have also realized rather ruefully that by the time I get my first sock finished, I will have already knitted nearly two whole socks. I know… I could leave the holes. Problem is that they would drive me crazy, and I could never enjoy wearing the socks. Why do something this nicely detailed then leave two glaring holes?

Of course, I have to rip out some anyway…


Kathy’s too long

It would seem that having a range instead of a specific number for toe length isn’t necessarily a good idea for a first time sock knitter, knitting a pair of socks that feel as if they are cursed. They are plenty long to be grafted and there are still 8 rows to go. I could live with that, as it feels like they would form around my toes nicely even at this width. However, with the stockinette toe starting halfway up my big toenail, it looks more like I got tired of making cables or something – totally silly.

Obviously, these socks have it in for me. I love them – so long as I’m not knitting them at the moment. I do want to finish them. However, I’ve been working on one sock for 6 weeks now. This is feeling not only excessive, but very trying. Everyone talks about how wonderful socks are because they are so quick to knit. Everyone hasn’t made this sock apparently. I’m officially putting these in time out, and I’m starting a toe up pair with different yarn (much lighter color, so easier to work) and a totally different pattern (Coriolis), and they are custom designed with my personal measurements, thanks to Cat Bordhi.

Of course, even that pattern doesn’t work if I swatch at a totally different gauge than I actually knit… This would be my second start… sigh…

Coriolis started over

But isn’t that invisible cast on toe great?!

Published in: on March 30, 2008 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Under the Wire – Hurrah!

I only recently discovered that there was a knitting guild up in Dayton, just a little over an hour away, and I joined almost instantly. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that Charlene Schurch was coming to do a workshop in March, but it was full and waitlisted. Considering that one of my primary goals for the year is to conquer sock knitting, I really wanted to attend! All I could do was add my name to the list and hope – and that turned out to be enough. :o)

I got a phone call the middle of last week saying that I was now officially on the class list – and was given a list of supplies to bring. I couldn’t believe I was unable to come up with a skein of worsted weight yarn without making a trip to Wal-Mart, but since I had to go see the dentist anyway, I didn’t have to make a special trip out at least. The trip that was not so nice was the drive to Dayton on Saturday morning in pea soup fog all the way.

I definitely recommend Charlene’s workshops if you have the opportunity to attend. She is a gentle and pleasant teacher who isn’t of the “one right way” school. She has the aura of a good doctor – you know, the sort that makes you feel as if you are his only patient and he has all the time in the world to tend for you. And I think it might be tough to go to one of her workshops for the first time and not learn at least one thing new. I also enjoyed the fact that I was suddenly facing some techniques I’d been putting off trying, and had no excuse not to attempt, especially with expert help at hand to bail me out, and a project that wasn’t something for real.

What we made in class is a pair of sample socks – and I’m using the term “pair” rather loosely here. For that matter, “socks” is somewhat loose, too! As you might imagine, one sock was toe up and the other was top down. The focus was not on the areas of the ankle and foot that are worked straight, so most of us birthed somewhat odd looking bits of knitting as we worked cast ons, heels, and toes one right after another.

Charlene Schurch Workshop Socks

On the top down sock, we could choose to either rib the top or make a picot edge. Since I have no problem with ribbing and flexible cast ons, I opted for the picot, which I’d never tried. I got off to a rough start, having to frog 2-3 times before I got going right, and it has nothing to do with the difficulty of a picot edge and everything to do with trying to knit when I’m usually asleep, right after driving for 90 minutes in heavy fog. Once I got going, I did fine, and I didn’t have any trouble again except when I was interrupted halfway through my Kitchener stitch and laid it down… sigh… We did heel flaps on the top down and short row heels on the toe up socks, experienced Judy Becker’s Magic Cast On for the toe ups, and played with not one, but four flexible bind offs when we reached the top. I love the picot bind off, and I’m eager to try it on a ribbed edge. I didn’t have time to work any ribbing on my practice sock, so the edge rolls, which could be a great design element on the right item. Charlene says it doesn’t roll on ribbing, so I know it’s going to find its way to the top of a pair of socks sooner than later. If you look at the smaller of the two socks, it has all four options, and the picot is the one that shows on the part of the edge toward the toe. If you would like to try knitting it yourself, click here: Picot Bind Off.

As an added bonus, Charlene stayed in town for Monday’s guild meeting, and presented a lecture on the history of socks. If she’d had that info in printed form, I’d have purchased it on the spot! Very interesting, in my opinion, and I wish I had a way to reference it in the future without digging through the list of sources she rattled off as providing her information.

Charlene has authored a number of very popular books. Her two sock books are designed to enable a knitter, so instead of just having patterns for specific socks in certain sizes, she includes techniques and charts and oodles of pattern stitches, and all the help you need to build your own perfect socks. If you are the sort of person who would rather learn how to fish instead of being handed a fish, check out Sensational Knitted Socks and More Sensational Knitted Socks.

If it wasn’t already a sock heaven sort of weekend, we also got to paw through a delicious mountain of her sample socks, knit for her books… Yum!

Knit and Not

I’ve realized this week that the more I have to blog about, the less time I have to blog. This translates into “I’ve had quite the week!”

It started out with the blizzard last weekend – a term not loosely employed. Here we are, comfortably into March, and for the first time in the 25 years we’ve lived here, the National Weather Service issued a legitimate blizzard warning for our county. We didn’t get as much snow as the next real town to the north of us, but it was enough – with the obligatory wind and biting cold. We’ve not had much of a real winter here, but now that it’s in its death throes, it apparently has decided to make a bit of a fuss. One good thing is that it was so bitterly cold that the flakes were quite small and dry. They didn’t hang in the branches and prune the trees for us, but they did make some lovely drifts.

Blizzard down the street Snow in the bushes

(Remember, all pix enlarge with a click.)

Once the worst of things had settled, Hitty Darlene was eager to go exploring the marshmallow fluff world outdoors, and she had a lovely time of it.

Hitty D and snowbank Hitty D’s snowman

Other excitement has been as diverse as a trip to the dentist, getting into a great workshop for which I’d been waitlisted (and needing to obtain supplies post haste), and being invited by a friend to go on a special cruise (complete with research and decision making, and registering before the Saturday cut off), which will fill one of my 100 Things to Do Before I Die dreams. I’m absolutely convinced that 2008 is not going to be a boring year, and to this point in time, I’ve only had maybe one or two days that could even begin to wear that description.

On the knitting front, progress continues everywhere and then some, as I flit amongst four very active projects, depending on the amount of time available and my ability to concentrate. I have started to work the lace on the next to last scallop on my capelet, then it’s the rush up the side and across the top, then done. Goal was to have it ready to take to Monday night’s meeting, but I’m questioning the likelihood at this point. It’s addictive, as is Outlander, which is my current audiobook, reserved only to be read while knitting, but I have to do other things occassionally, too, like my commission project, which had to be started over, as I wasn’t at all happy with it the first time.

My first sock is inching steadily down the sole to the toe, but I only put four rows a day on that, so it’s slow going. At least it fits this time. This photo was taken about 3 inches ago. I love looking at the way the stitches shape the heel and gusset. It almost looks like magic.

Sock with finished gusset

And my pre-born projects finally got the best of me. I have several chomping eagerly at the bit, but had been able to resist the next shawl and the socks, due to having one of each on the needles. Next sock projects are probably Cat Bordhi’s Coreolis and Red Bird’s February Sock of the Month (in that order, as I’ve seen plenty of cables to last me for a while). It turns out that both are in yarn that is primarily blue – just like my first sock. Hmmm… How did I do that, I wonder? At least the Knot Garden by Red Bird Knits was accidental. That’s the yarn that came with it, and I didn’t know what I’d be getting until I opened the package – honest!

Master Coreolis prebirth Red Bird March 2008 SOTM

But this other project is a little different, combining inspiration from Vicki Square’s Folk Bags and a pattern from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, to hopefully successfully fill a need for a special container to hold the things I need at hand when I’m hanging out on the sofa. Here is the start of it – or rather, the second start of it. I’m beginning to get the hang of working with one color in each hand, and it’s almost as addictive as the lacework, but I’m making every effort to keep it a very low priority project until I’m done with my commission work. Since the work is done with strands of worsted weight (Knit Picks’ Wool of the Andes), it goes along very quickly when I do have a few minutes to invest. Looking at the photo, the colors don’t appear to blend as well as they do in person, so we’ll have to see what happens as I work the rest of them into the project.

FairIsle basket birth

Enough for now… I’ll save the new girl for sometime this weekend…





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