In March I started making a pair of socks for my husband.  I came up with a pattern that I thought I liked and made most of one sock while on flights back and forth to the East Coast.  I finished the toe of one of these socks over the 4th of July and didn't like it any more.  I had started at the top, working towards the toe, and the self stripping yarn had ended in a color that I didn't like on the toe.  I put the sock away.  
I recently had the chance to be with my father for his birthday.  I wanted to make socks for him, and so I started, again, to discover a good formula for a men's sock using self striping yarn.  The self striping yarn puts on enough of a show, and so, I think, challenges the knitter to come up with something simple to let it shine.  I like the Felici yarn from Knitpicks because it is soft and seems to be long lasting (also it is not too expensive, especially as the color ways are retired.)  I'll be linking to the tutorials I use for each section of the sock formula.  I've been using some of these tutorials for years.
Before knitting, I pulled enough yarn out of each ball so  that I could match up the colors, and then trimmed one off so they matched.  
I needed a place to start, I could feel myself getting overwhelmed, so I turned to Toe-up Socks for Every Body by Wendy Johnson for some help on how many stitches to start with for the toe of a man's sock.  I did toe-up so I would have more control over the toe color, and after all, on the leg, you can just keep going if you don't like the color it is ending on.  
Using the toe from the Manly Aran Socks pattern I made both toes and loaded them onto the needles so that I could make the socks two at a time so I would be sure to finish them.  I suffer greatly from Second Sock Syndrome, which isn't really an acceptable excuse to not getting a birthday present finished.  For a 9 inch diameter sock, I had 36 stitches on the front and on the back.  I didn't want to do a simple 1x1 or 2x2 ribbing, and after poking around online, I found inspiration in a ribbing that had thin and thick sections.  I devised something that had thin and fat ribs and would fit into the allotted stitches.  
I decided I wanted to use the Jo-Jo heel because it has a similar appearance to a short-row heel, but is a little deeper to accommodate a man's larger foot.  The difference is that in the Jo-Jo heel, there are a few rounds that go all the way around all the instep and heel stitches half way through the heel, so there were a few very skinny stripes of color on the front of the ankle, but I'm at peace with them.  
I kept going up the leg, and then finished with 1 1/2 inches of 1x1 ribbing, and used a sewn bind-off so everything is extra stretchy.  
I was so pleased with the result when I finished my father's socks, that I immediately re-started the socks for my husband, same toe up, two at a time technique.  I didn't bother taking the other sock apart, I just knit the yarn as it unraveled.  The sock made with the unraveled yarn looks a little looser right now, but one washing and the socks will look the same.   I'm sure there might be some tiny difference in tension, but I can't believe that my husband will notice it.  
 
 
It has become clear to me, (and possibly to you), that I would rather knit than write about it, but then at the same time, I love talking about fiber craft because it is something I love to do, and it is also something I feel like I really understand.  I have a friend who is an architect and she can explain how a building is built based on looking at the outside.  I find that amazing, and it makes me proud to think that I can do the same thing with a knitted object.  I've been reading a lot of Elizabeth Zimmerman (knitting sage) and she has a blanket pattern where she intentionally goes out of her way to make it a puzzle for other knitters to understand how it was assembled.  I find this idea delightful for the same reason I like cast-offs that look like cast-ons and seamless construction.
Speaking of Elizabeth Zimmerman, I finally got a chance to try out one of her most iconic designs, the Baby Surprise Jacket.  The surprise is all for the knitter because the whole jacket it knit in one flat, misshapen piece and then with two seams at the tops of the arms, it becomes a jacket.  My cousin and his wife had a beautiful baby girl at the beginning of the year and I was so pleased to make this for her.
I wanted to do a whole outfit, and so I found this free cute little hat pattern on Ravelry.
And since her name is Iris, I found a free Lion Brand pattern for an Iris and sized it down using smaller yarn and a smaller crochet hook.
For my mom's birthday, I knew I wanted to make a pair of socks, and I wanted to make some that would fit.  She wanted some more subdued socks she could wear to work, which isn't usually the direction I go in for her.  She loves the Skew pattern from Knitty, and after an abortive attempt with another pattern that came out looking like a Viking boot, I adapted the Skew pattern with eyelets so that the skew is still visible, but without using self striping yarn. 
It is great to make things that people have asked for.  My brother in law requested a knit necktie, which sounded like a fun challenge.  I lined the skinny part by the neck with a piece of grosgrain ribbon.  Knitting a long skinny strip of moss stitch takes a lot longer than you would think. This is a modified free Lion Brand pattern.
I love Kate Davies' designs.  Her photography is beautiful and her designs are historic and modern at the same time.  I bought her book, and the design that captivated me immediately was the Puffin Sweater.  Did you know Puffins live in Scotland?  I didn't, and I love this fact.  
This was a quick anniversary gift for my husband.  He loves the TV show Adventure Time and this is a character, Jake the Dog, from that show.  I had to do it all at work and sneak the car at one point to go buy the yarn, so all of that is more exciting than the actual project, which was fairly simple.  The eyes are regular craft eyes you can buy at the store and then I used whiteout to color in Jake's distinctive pupils.  The pattern is on Ravelry.
This summer for the most part I've been working on Wedding Blankets.  We have so many dear friends that are getting married and we don't have the wherewithal to get to most of the weddings.  Only one of the weddings has happened so far, so I'll only post one of the blankets.  The pattern is one I bought from Bernat and is worked from the center and I used a slightly obscure Elizabeth Zimmerman cast-off from The Knitters Almanac around the edge with a variegated yarn.
When we were having colder weather, and before I got moving on these wedding blankets, I was slaving away on this monster, a dream sweater for my husband from an out of print Dale of Norway book.  I love it and I can't wait to start working on it again in the fall.
 
 
I'm playing photo catch-up again.  Click the image for a link to the pattern.
It feels good to be friends with my knitting again!  On Friday there was no knitting because my husband and I went up to San Francisco to go to one of SF Sketchfest events.  We saw Ronna and Beverly live.  It was a fun night, and a late night driving back, but totally worth it. If you live in the bay area, there are various Sketchfest events going on all through February, so check it out.  
Picture
A wonderfully simple shawl I made for my boss who was kind enough to give me the yarn for Christmas.
The most thrilling part of Friday for me, however, was that I ordered Kate Davies new book, Colours of Shetland, and the yarn to make the Puffin Sweater.  Yes, in those colors, I wish I was wearing it right now already!
The yarn is literally coming from the Shetland Islands, (famous for their knitting, as well as tiny horses, for those not in the know.)  
Picture
The yarn was madelinetosh prairie and it was a pleasure to work with.
Pretty much everything about ordering from the UK is charming to my American ears, so the fact that I ordered from Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers is just like icing on the cake.  Also the international shipping was the same as what a local would have paid in value added tax, so, excepting the longer wait, I've already had a great customer experience.  
Picture
Tiny Loch Ness Monster admires a tiny sweater with ukuleles around the yolk. (An old project I recently photographed and why not share it?)
Also, let it be known that despite the fact that the extra cable for my Addi Clicks arrived, I have not started Wedding Gift Blanket: The Return.  (Although that makes it sound like it is a wedding gift you can return, which we all know is the major kind of guilty failing of handmade gifts: the giftees have to keep them.  How about Wedding Gift Blanket 2: Knitting Boogaloo?)  Anyway, the cable arrived, but I was so comfortably ensconced in Wedding Gift Blanket one that I didn't even feel tempted to start. 
Upon ordering the Kate Davies self-gift basket, I knew I had better dig in to these Mom's Birthday Socks (which started my tizzy in the first place), and, in fact, yesterday I finished one.  So one more to go, well on schedule.  The second sock should take only about 1/2 the time of the first, because most of the time spent on this sock was spent trying to figure out the heel instructions, which, I don't know, they weren't really badly written once I figured out what they were trying to say, but they did confuse the heck out of me, so there is that against them.  
 
 
In knitting news: I persevere with these continental purls.  I did catch myself doing purls continental style once by instinct, but I've also caught a few English purls cropping up when the going gets tough.

In non-knitting news: I've been lead to reading Mrs. Miniver through another blog I read, Jean's Knitting.  It turns out there is a free copy of the book available on-line and I am just so totally charmed by it.  Honestly, who can resist:
In childhood the daylight always fails too soon -- except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.
Hooray for Joyce Maxtone Graham, the author, who, apparently sometimes signed her letters Joyous.   
 

Iceland

01/23/2013

0 Comments

 
Oh you guys!  I'm beginning to understand what blog after blog has been telling me.  I'm beginning to have a desire to go to Iceland.  After all that priming, I guess all I needed was a bag of surprise yarn and this postcard below to convince me.  
Picture
I mean really, look at these guys (and gals?)
The caption on the post card say:
A woolly coat comes in handy in most parts of Iceland, and the wool from Icelandic sheep is famous for its dual quality of warmth and lightness.  A protected breed, the Icelandic Sheep has remained genetically the same for over 1000 years.  Sheep roam freely all over the countryside in the spring and summer months, and are only rounded up in the fall.  
Work continues on the wedding gift blanket, and that cable I ordered in my fit of pique has almost arrived, which means I could start wedding gift blanket #2, but I think I'm almost ready to return to mother's birthday socks, which is what threw me into the tizzy in the first place :) 
 

Purls

01/22/2013

0 Comments

 
I forgot to say yesterday that I also devoted time on Sunday to getting a handle on doing a consistent continental purl.  I turned to a favorite knitting resource, knittinghelp.comHere is a link to the page of videos on purl stitch techniques.  Perhaps necessity is the mother of invention, or maybe it is just luck, the wedding gift blanket has a lot of purling, and so I've been able to practice my technique.  I don't think what I'm doing can completely be called a continental purl because I'm not wrapping the yarn around my finger extra times to maintain tension.  I don't do this with my continental knit stitches either.  I can see that I seem to be getting much closer to the same tension now on my knit and purl rows in stockinette stitch (my English style purls were looser than my continental knits, you know, no so you would notice, but I knew). 
I really can't post without a picture.  (We'll see how long that lasts...)  So here is a "picture" of the wedding gift blanket. 
I'm 60% finished!  Three horizontal patterns down, two to go.  Perhaps I should be working on other projects that have sooner due dates, but after the recent bout of craft dis-pleasure, it feels good to be getting along on something.  
 
 
I spent yesterday up in Oakland with my friend Amynta while our guys were on a fishing trip.  I did about 1 inch on my wedding gift blanket and provided moral and technical support to my friend while she finished a Hansi Singh octopus that I helped her start on a Yosemite camping trip in 2010.  Hansi's patterns are challenging, but so worthwhile.  I credit them with bringing my own knitting skills along much faster than I think they would have otherwise progressed.  They use every shaping and grafting technique in the book, and at the end you have a lovely little toy.  
Picture
Here is the proud knitter and her creation. (Click the image for a link to the pattern)
I won't post pictures of the wedding gift blanket, maybe some close ups in a little while, but here's a picture of what it looked like when I took it apart the first time.  Perfect may be the enemy of the good, but I can't knit what I don't enjoy, as should surely be apparent from yesterday's post.  
Picture
Big bag of yarn ramen
I'm posting this picture to emphasize that I take every project apart at least once.  I'm just going to have to learn to celebrate that fact, cause it's reality.  
 
 
This blog has been silent for a little while, while I try to figure out what to do with it.  I've decided that an exercise in daily writing is a good way to get out of this indecisive phase, and as an example, the following is writing from Friday night and Saturday night.   I've thrown in some photos of finished items for the last little bit of time to keep things light :)  Each photo is linked to the pattern if you're interested.  Here we go...
Picture
Baby sweater for sweet baby Mara (sweater from a LYS, not on-line)
Friday night:

Oh my gosh, knitting frustration!  I have at least 9 work-in-progress projects going on right now.  And I don't want to work on any of them.  Is the solution to start a new project?  It certainly seemed hopeful.  The first project I tried to start called for size 13 circular needles.  I checked, and I have no regular set of 13 circulars.  I have two interchangeable needle sets, one of which goes up to size 11, and the other one does have size 13s.  Good news, except that I only have the shortest cable available for that set.  It is 9:30 pm at this point, so I can't run to the store.  Husband points out that I could order another large cable.  This wouldn't help me in the moment, but, I tell myself, I can endure this crazy for a few more days, so I order one from Amazon.  But I still want to knit to relax and I still don't want to work on any of my current projects.  
Picture
Hot Fudge Sundae Socks for my mom
Maybe I could start something else that is ready to go.  Maybe a hat that I bought the yarn for last Christmas.  Let's see, that wants size 10 double pointed needles.  I don't have those, but I can come up with two size 10 circulars on the short cables between the two interchangeable sets.  Let me just check gauge before I'm off and running on this... oh, I have 8 stitches per inch instead of the 6 required by the gauge.  And, the fabric already seems like it is too loose, and when you stretch it, you can see through the "holes", no good for a hat.  Going up in needle size to get the right gauge would make the fabric even looser.  Could I hold two strands of the yarn together?  Yes, but then I wouldn't have enough yarn to finish the project, and this yarn is actually discontinued I've had it in my stash for so long.  
Picture
Thank you gift for the wonderful woman who made my husband's kilt
Hm, maybe I should start some complicated doily, because I finally have some size 30 thread.  No, I know that is a bad idea for what is now 10 pm.  I'll just work on this reversible project that I started in 2009 and picked up again recently. It is a little tedious because there are so many stitches per row, but it has a certain appeal.  You know, after the gauge being so off on that hat, maybe i should just check it on this for a lark.  Oh, I'm 2 stitches off on the vertical and horizontal gauge, oh, and I also just learned a much prettier way to join the sides.  So, I guess I should take it apart?  but each row takes around 20 min.  I don't want to take it apart, but on the other had, I still have much further to go on the project than I've already gone.    
Picture
Christmas ornaments
Saturday night:

After a morning of continuing to bemoan my situation, I awoke from a nap to a mail delivery of the most lovely Icelandic yarn from a friend who just came back from a trip.  
Picture
Beautiful surprise wool from Iceland
The colors are beautiful and the sentiment is charming.  Alright, I'm feeling better.  I planned to go to a bagpipe jam session with my husband that night, and had thought I would bring a project to while away the hours, but in my current state I was beside myself as to what that project would be.  
Picture
Observe, I had the perfect eye stalk button in my button box!
Ultimately I decided to go back to a wedding gift project that is due in August that I hadn't worked on since October (a conservative estimate).  What a good project to return to!  Cables to keep things interesting, 100% wool yarn, one eye calming cream color.  Pleasant music, and a lovely bunch of German women who happened to be there who lavished my project with ego boosting praise and then descended upon me trying to show me how to do a continental purl stitch.  
Picture
Friend commissioned baby two-toed sloth
There were three women, two were mother and daughter, and each had her own slightly different continental purl technique and each felt her own way made the most sense, and it was such a nice moment of knitter fellowship and so charming to be literally hugged from behind by one of the women while she grabbed my hands and  attempted to lead them through her version of a purl.  So i'm back in the game, inching my way back to relaxing knitting.  
Picture
Everyone cuddles when they're cuddly!
And that's why i need to write every day here, because the experience of knitting is so mercurial to me and I want to try to document it, maybe for 2 weeks?  
 
 
Socks are fun to knit.  While there are some knitters who never knit socks, there are some who only knit socks.  A basic sock leaves a lot up to the discretion of the knitter.  There is a cuff, a heel, and a toe, with leg and foot between them, and because there have been people knitting for hundreds of years, there are lots of different ways to create these parts.  I love that socks are based on measurements, and that you can make a sock that fits just based on the wearer’s shoe size.  I love to find a favorite method for each part, use it a few times, and then find a new favorite method.  I’ve been knitting socks since 2005, and plunging head first into the knitting part of the internet since 2009,  and I still come across new ways to do things that tickle my fancy.  I’m looking at those numbers, and they don’t seem long enough ago to encompass what I feel I’ve learned about fiber arts in those years, but, to put it another way, I spend an average of 3 hours a day on fiber crafting, and so those years add up to 5,000-10,000 hours.  

I learn new skills with each new project I undertake and with each old project I do a 2nd or 3rd time, and spending 50 straight days a year crafting means that I’m learning a lot.  Even so, I’m surprised to see how things I made, even a year ago, feel far away and foreign.  Places in a pattern where I had to make decisions look strange to my eyes now, because I’ve learned new techniques that I would use instead.  

I’ve been busy recently working on projects for folks at Thanksgiving and for folks at Christmas, and for weddings that are happening in August (yeah, I know, but it is better to be ahead than behind I say!).  I’ve gotten through everything I wanted to do for Thanksgiving, and Christmas still seems far away, so I got inspired to finish a project that has been hanging around since May 2011.  The project is a pair of socks that were supposed to be for an August 2011 birthday, but instead they will be for a 2012 Thanksgiving.  
Picture
Hard won toe
Technical Notes: My goal is to avoid taking the first sock apart and have two matching socks at the end of the process.  I did not, however, make it simple for myself.  In 2011, apparently, I hadn't yet learned to keep detailed notes about pattern changes, because I looked at the finished sock, looked at the directions I had stuffed into the bag with the extra yarn, and had some troubles.  After trying to start the sock cuff-down and knitting a few rounds, I figured out that the finished sock is knit from the toe up.  I can still access vague memories of being so enamored of Judy’s magic cast-on that I would use any excuse to employ it, and also being so interested in the Interlock Bindoff, that, again, any excuse or pattern tweak seemed reasonable.  The Interlock Bindoff looks almost, but not quite like a Twisted German cast-on, thus my cast-on confusion.  They may, very well, operate under the same principles, because they are both very stretchy.  Figuring out how many stitches were cast on was another challenge.  Well, less of a challenge and more like I didn't look that closely at the toe of the first sock before I plunged ahead, so, a completed toe later, I realized that I had cast on 28 stitches on the first sock, and only 20 on the second, so I ripped it back again.  Now I’m on the almost right track and should be able to finish the foot without further incident.  
Picture
Dissatisfying heel
I did an afterthought heel on the first sock (a heel knitted after the rest of the sock is finished).  Now, as you would expect, I have a different favorite heel, which is knitted during sock construction.  The afterthought heel I did has a thicker side seam than I would like.  I’m torn because I don’t want to do a bunch of ripping back, and I can’t employ my new favorite heel technique anyway, but if I can find a satisfactory solution, which I think I have, then I’ll be pulling out the heel on the first sock and doing something a little more elegant.  


The pattern for these, by the way, is Jaywalker.  
 
 
I spent the weekend attempting to give order to my massive yarn collection (more on this and what I found later.)  Of course, the main thing I found was that I have a lot of yarn that I can’t really imagine using.  That isn’t to say that I can’t imagine needing this yarn for something, but just looking at it isn’t an inspirational activity.  My husband thought it looked warm and fuzzy all laid out on the floor.  To me it looked like waist deep mud that I would have to wade through for some kind of craft basic training.  It’s back in tubs now, labeled into general categories: “acrylic worsted” and “natural worsted,” for example.  

I also found some “science experiment” knitting poking around, little swatches and tests.  One that’s been around for a year is the answer to the question “What if I made this bigger?”

I thought I was going to make a thread bedspread at some point, which, still might happen in my lifetime.  Of course, the pattern I chose was time consuming and thread consuming, and even popped up as the subject of some justified mockery on a well known knitting blog.   
Picture
Here's a block
I would need to make a gazillion, and I’ve made around 10.  Also, I can only imagine that this bedspread, once completed, would probably weigh so much that people laying beneath it could not move.  

At some point, I wanted to see what would happen if this fiddly little square was done in worsted? 
Again, the result eats up a lot of yarn, the brown part used almost a whole skein, but I love the effect.  Looking at all my acrylic worsted weight yarn, I’ve been thinking, I should finish this project. It seems like a great way to get rid of yarn and end up with a lacy extravagant blanket.  I was thinking maybe 9 squares, maybe 12.  I’m going to shoot for one a month and see where that gets me.   Though I just realized I have no idea what size hook I used for the big one.  Hmm.