I would love to say that I've been knitting up a storm instead of posting here, but that isn't quite the case.  I've also been baking pies and cleaning the living room and watching TV.  In the midst of a few un-ending UFOs, my passion has been flagging a little.  
Which isn't to say of course that I haven't finished anything since July when I last posted.  August was actually a productive month, knitting wise.  It just didn't definitely feel that way.  Though I could question the health of it, what I love is to have a project going that I think about all the time.  Something I plan out aspects of during down time at work and can't wait to get home to.  How I felt about the sideways socks and my tiny hermit crab.  
But I also think I will find that project somewhere in my massive horde of projects waiting to be started.  Last weekend I made it though the left and right front of a sweater and part of the way up the back before I lost oomph over concerns about the tightness of the arm holes and running out of yarn.  Is it better to know you don't have enough yarn to finish a project, or to always think you might not have enough yarn to finish a project?  If you know the answer to this puzzle, please let me know in the comments.  
Alright, enough musing and down to brass tacks.  What exactly have I been up to since July?  Well...
Atomic Fireball Socks for my Father-in-law
Lots of cables for large men's feet.  They took me quite a while, but they have a lot of small touches that I like.  The heel is the extra long, good for men's socks, Fleegle's short-row heel.  It used up more yarn than I think a heel flap heel would have, but I also think a well fitting heel is half the battle in good sock fit.  I used the Interlock Bindoff, which I really like a lot.  It is possibly the most ridiculous and complicated sewn bindoff, but the results are fantastic, very stretchy, but also attractive.
Java Socks for my Dad
These were my first two-at-a-time socks.  Though of course each row takes twice as long, it is wonderful to cast off and be totally finished with a project.  The second sock is always the bane of my existence.  Very much like sleeves, my brain just doesn't want to do the same thing it just did, AGAIN.  I like the Java pattern because it is so stretchy.  The sad truth is that the more ornate a handmade sock is, the more it is like a tiny wool foot blanket, no give, no stretch, very thick.  So, though I love them, I think I am finished with Fair Isle socks because they just don't work for 80% of feet.  
Wedding Umaro
These photos really don't do it the color or the dimensions justice.  I blocked in haste and didn't think to snap a photo then, and these are pre-blocking.  The blanket ended up double bed sized, but that may only be because a double bed is the largest surface in my home that I have to block on.  The color is more of a natural cream.  It took FOREVER, but the result is beautiful and well worth it for a wedding gift.  
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Baby Wonton Wrapper
I made this for the arrival of my brand new little 1st cousin once removed.  She is beautiful and lovely.  I knew she was coming, but I didn't know her gender.  I figured yellow and teal would be good bright gender neutral colors.  The blanket is 100% cotton.  The main yellow part is Lion Brand, and then I had to delve into fancy yarn store territory for the teal because it would seem that there are no good true mass-market teals commercially available.  This baby's birth was conveniently timed during a trip East, and so I had a chance, the night before going to see her, to whip up some little coral colored star embellishments.  I didn't invent this star pattern.  Actually I scoured the internet for a free star pattern, only to discover that the best one, and I mean, really, the best crocheted stars in all history and time, would cost me $4.95.  I hemmed and hawed for a day, and finally my husband agreed to split the cost with me so that I could stop agonizing.  They are totally worth it.  The blanket has a little triangle sewn onto the front of one of the corners to act as a baby hood.  I love the texture of seed stitch, so I alternated squares of that with squares of straight knitting.  The boarder is a broken rib, so it doesn't shrink up but still has the texture of a rib.  Also, a baby blanket takes a lot less time than a wedding blanket with cables!
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Pre-stars and pre-weaving in the ends.  Also, the colors that an overcast sky affords the photographer.  Trust me, the teal is awesome.
Baby Duck Booties
Tucked inside the blanket are some booties that I finished within a month of finding out about the pregnancy, but that I haven't posted, just to cover my gifts are supposed to be surprises bases.  The pattern is a field trip into the mind of a master knitter and I loved making them, and actually plan to make another pair very soon for a friend's baby.  
Well, thanks for making it through the poorly lit photos and the rambling prose.  Though it gets hot here before it gets cool, I think Fall always brings good knitting.  
 
I've got several finished projects now that I need to post about, but I thought these were so neat, they needed a post all to themselves
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I made these socks for a friend with whom bees figure prominently into our friendship.  I got the yarn ages ago, but I hadn't found a pattern that worked well with the yarn.  Pooling is the ugly and unwanted phenomenon where big blobs of one color in a variegated yarn plop themselves down in what otherwise is a pleasing random arrangement of the colors.  On socks this usually results in a pretty random sock and then one giant zig zag, thin-thick stripe of brown or something.  I'm not sure of the scientific support of this theory, but pooling usually happens with the ugliest color in the yarn.  Anyway, this yellow and black yarn was pooling badly with every pattern I tried.  Then I tried this pattern!  I guess the yarn still pools, but it pools evenly, creating the illusion of stripes or just more organic forms.
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The socks are worked long ways, from cuff to toe.  The pattern is a few years old, and lots of folks on-line have already worked it, but it is new to me, and I'm excited about it.  The elegance, the simplicity, I'm going to stop gushing now.  I took some photos at different stages of the process and I will leave you with those:
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Half a sock.  You first work decreases to make the heel shape, and then increases to make the toe shape.
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As you increase and decrease on the sides of the toe, the little toe pocket forms by itself.
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The whole sock finished.  All that's left is to sew up the back with an invisible seam.  I'd like to think it looks like a tiny tiger skin at this stage. 
 
Once again I've been working on gifts, and so I haven't been posting.  I still have to figure out a way around that.  But at least one gift has been presented, so here are the Sweet Alice Socks:
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They were worked using the Sweetheart Socks pattern on Knitty, and inspired by a lovely color combination I saw on Ravelry.  That person did their socks in a deep red, but I thought I would just soften it a little by using this old barn pinkish color for a more feminine heel and toe.  Mostly worked by knitting stitches together and making new stitches instead of real cables, and also worked in worsted weight yarn, they worked up quickly and are super thick and warm.  This was the first time that I worked an afterthought heel, so it was a fun technical experiment.  The afterthought is that you work a piece of waste yarn where you want the heel to go, and then once the sock is complete you take out the waste yarn, pick up the stitches, and knit the heel.  The only negative is that you can't try the sock on while you are making it, but since most of my recipients live far from me, that isn't really a problem.
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Just finished a pair of socks for my husband.   They are the Java Socks pattern from the most current issue of Knitty.  They have a little two stitch cable all over them, which is good because it is more interesting to knit than just plain ribbing, but is bad because it still became kind of monotonous.  The pattern is special because the decreases that happen after the heel are done across the ankle instead of down the side of the heel.  The pattern is nicely written so that the decreases just become a part of the flow of the ribbing.  My husband says that these socks fit better in the ankle than any others that I have made for him. I think part of this is the construction, but I also think that having an all over rib helps because it gives the fabric a lot more stretch, thus making it fit better.  
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I’m trying to be better about posting projects right after they are finished.  Christmas makes that impossible, and birthdays are not much better.  My mom’s birthday was on Valentine’s, and she has already opened her present, so I can now post it here:
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It is the Skew pattern from knitty.com.  The pattern incorporates a very interesting diagonal construction.  The whole thing is worked from the big toe, over and then up.  The heel is also different, with the increases going out to the side, and then being folded towards each other and grafted together.  It is hard to explain, but I recommend knitting it if you get a chance.  
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I actually ended up knitting the pattern twice.  For most of my knitting life I have existed with size 1 ½ needles instead of regular 1s.  It was the kind of purchasing fluke that happens when a novice buys needles, but I was a well informed novice, so I bought Addi Turbo’s, expensive needles, in slightly the wrong size.  The first pair of skew socks were made using the slightly larger needles, and it actually made a big difference in the size of the socks.  These slightly too big fellows have now gone on to a friend with slightly larger feet.  
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Also, since they were for my mom, I decided that the more muted colors simply weren’t as appropriate as some festive red.  
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I will say though, that working this pattern has restored my faith in variegated yarn a little and I'm thinking more positively about hand dyed yarn.  I'll be at Stitches West this weekend, so it may be that I come home with an arm full of hand dyed and make nothing but socks for a while. 
 
Now is the time to reveal what I’ve been working on for the past few months:
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Little penguin ornaments.  Unfortunately, like a few of my projects, I didn’t get a better photo than this one, but he does look cute here on his way to the post office!  I made 8 of these little guys, taking breaks from larger projects.  They were made using sock yarn and size 2 needles.  They came out nicely, but it wasn’t the most elegant pattern, and I certainly was glad to make the last one.  The pattern came from Knitpicks, and in the same pattern book is a pattern for knitted popcorn to string up for Christmas tree decoration.  But I’m trying to forget that one.  The phrase “make 90” at the beginning of the directions sounds like a warning to stay away and protect my sanity to me.
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This little guy is the Zozo alien from Knitty.  I made him for a little cousin of mine who is still small enough to not get button eyes on her toys.  Similar to the penguins, I like how he came out, but there was so much I-chord involved.  I had planned to make another one, but went with a different project instead.  Call it craft attention deficit, but once I’ve done a project, especially a fiddly one like this, doing a second, third, etc, becomes pretty onerous.  Making two socks or two sleeves can be quite enough of a challenge, I didn't need to spend another week making short little I-chords.
Intarsia knitting before and after weaving in the ends.
Thus, enter the gorilla baby beanie from the mad monkey knitter on Etsy.  I made a few alterations in the pattern, so that I had a happy monkey instead.  I also started this project on an airplane, a miscalculation, as you can perhaps see.  With my lap full of little bobbins of yarn I felt like I needed to explain to the little old lady next to me that I actually did know what I was doing.  I was so proud of how clean the back ended up coming out that I immediately took pictures, and then I forgot to take pictures of the finished hat.  But I think you can get an idea of how it looks from looking at this pristine back.  :)
Here is the mobius shawl that I made for my mother-in-law.  I'm modeling it in the photo above, because I never got a chance to get a photo of her in it.  I had never knit a mobius before, and it was certainly cool.  A mobius strip is a loop of paper, or knitting, or what have you, that has been twisted once so that it has a continuous outer edge.  It is knit working from the center out, knitting both edges at the same time.  As you can see, when it is on the needles it is a big mess, but during the cast off, it is super rewarding to see it become an un-wadded up piece of fabric.  I think it is a great shawl alternative because there is no way it can fall off your shoulders.  It is knit with bulky yarn, so it is very warm and cozy.
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That tiny sock from the last post was intended as an IOU for my dad.  I thought for sure that I wasn't going to have time to complete a full pair of socks for him, so I made that little one.  When we came home from Thanksgiving, it seems that one of the cats made off with the tiny sock, and they still aren't saying where they put it.  By the time I had finished all my projects, it turned out I still had a week, so I was able to whip these up, thank goodness!  I had bought the yarn on a whim during a trip to Switzerland, when I discovered they sold yarn in the department store.  I just couldn't resist. Yarn in a department store, how novel.  It was even on sale and came with a matching spool of thinner yarn for reinforcing the toe and heel.  In order to not completely hide the pattern, I knit the socks in stockinette, which I always worry will be too loose, so I did do some ribbing under the arch as an experiment that I hope made them fit a little more snuggly.  Because they were for my dad though, I won't ever know if the ribbing is a good idea or not because he just tells me they are great.  :)
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I think it was at the beginning of the year, I'm not sure, but at some point my brother-in-law started running barefooted and wearing Vibram Five Fingers "toe shoes".  I saw him at the end of May and decided that what this kid needed were some toe socks, or toe slippers.  I measured his feet and got started on the first sock, got down to the toe area, and then froze.  I had measured his toes already, but I just wasn't confident about my measurements.  As luck would have it, my husband and I got a chance to visit with his family again on Labor Day, and I was able to finish the toes on one sock.  I started the next one, but I knew I couldn't just hold it up to the first sock, and I was going blind trying to count and compare the rows.  Then, hurrah, we saw each other again at the beginning of December, and I was able to finish the toes for the second foot.  I used this really cool Riga latex product to make the no skid bottom, because they are slippers after all.  That worked great and I would totally recommend the product to anybody, much better than puff paint.  
Finally, a felted purse for my mom.  This purse was really quite quick and easy.  It was lots and lots of stockinette, and then, a row where you picked up the backs of the first row of a color and knit them with the current row, creating the pleat.  I ordered the pattern from knitpicks.  My only complaint is that they didn't quite calculate the yardage correctly, so that I ran out of the colors in the bottom sections, the grey and the cranberry, before it was time to switch to the next color.  It was pretty nerve wracking to have the suspense of not knowing if you were going to be able to finish with the right color or not.  Hidden under the pleats are some rogue lines of black and mismatched purple.  But all's well that ends well.  I made the lining out of some purple batik fabric and put a magnetic closure into it.  This was my first foray into felting, but it went well and I'm thinking of working on a felted vest for my father-in-law for next Christmas.  
Well, that's all.  Christmas was lovely.  I got a special gift from my mother-in-law, who secretly has been learning to knit and made me a ruffly scarf!  I got to see my little cousin wearing the owl sweater that I made for him.  I got a pair of Addi Click interchangeable needles, which have already proven to be quite useful as I sit swatching away on new projects and needing to change up and down needle sizes.  Also my husband has promised to buy a kit for me to make the Dale of Norway Polar Bear sweater!  2011 is shaping up pretty well so far!
 
It seems like everything I'm working on of late is for Christmas, or for people I will see at Thanksgiving, or people I will see the first weekend of December, and because I'm blessed with many wonderful friends, all the recipients are also blog readers.   Which means that I could post photos of close ups of knitted fabric, but how can I when I'm knitting any time I'm not sleeping or eating? 
All that said, I am doing a small post today.  This is only a part of a gift, so the mystery will be maintained. 
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That's what I've got to show for weeks of silence.  On the up side, I totally made the pattern up based on a fairly consumate knowledge of sock structure.  I even picked up a stitch at the gusset edge to keep it from gapping.  I used size 00 needles and sock yarn.  The decreases for the toe aren't ideal, but since no tiny foot is actually going into this sock, I'm going to let them stand. 
Additional trivia, the yarn that makes up the main body of the sock is the yarn from mosaic hat that I finished back in 2009.  And the ball is still biggern than a soft ball!  That yarn is going to last forever, I'm pretty sure. 
 

So, I actually finished my mom's socks a little while ago.  Maybe January 24th?  Her birthday is on Valentine's day, so I'll be mailing them off soon.  Here are some pictures of the finished product:

The best part of making these by far was learning how to do the mosaic pattern.  I love Fair Isle type patterns, and enjoy the challenge of working with the multiple strands, but I have to say, I think once you go mosaic, it is hard to see why you would want to go back.  All that being said about multiple pattners and strands etc, I also love the way the heel of these socks came out, (eye-of-the-partridge).  The texture is lovely, and the natural inconsistency of the dye on the yarn lends some depth without being overbearing.  It may just be that I'm saying that because it is juxtaposed to the rainbow (which I secretly came to like, shhh.)  They are perfect for my mom though.  Anyone who knows her would tell you so.  I feel a little bad because she keeps hint-asking if I've been able to start them and I keep saying how busy I am.  But she loves surprises, so the thrill of the surprise will cancel out the disapointment.  But I still feel a little like a tricky jerk.

At any rate, onward, and away from socks for a while.  Though there are a few different heels and ribbings, and they are really so practical, there isn't so much techinque once you've mastered the basics.  Therefore, onward to a gift for my mother-in-law.  I wanted to make her something that looked like it could be bought in a boutique.  A lacy beaded scarf is what I chose.  This was supposed to be a Christmas present, and then turned into a late Christmas present when my husband was going out to see his parents in January, and now will just be a mid-February/early-March present.  She lives in a very cold climate, so it will still be a useful gift when it finally arrives at its destination.  With 10 of 15 repeats finished, I should be done pretty soon. 

The beads are all pre-strung and then pushed along on the yarn until they are needed, so I string on about 5 diamonds worth of beads and then when I've run out, I cut the yarn, add more beads, and get back to knitting.  It is a lovely process and the yarn is lace weight on size 5 needles, so it goes pretty quickly.  There are four colors of beads, which you may or may not be able to see in the detail picture, a matte brown, a shiny brown, a pearl, and an iridescent white which comes out almost lavender.  The original pattern which I really love, used only one color of bead.  It looked too stark to me, and so with the help of friends, one visionary in particular, I became convinced that not only was it not insane to use multiple colors (I had great fears about stringing them in the right order, but it turns out that once you have done it a few times and messed up once, it is pretty simple) but also a slightly more muted palette was devised.  I happened upon the "Beadwrangler" who has the most beautiful treat for the eyes of a website you've ever seen.  Also the yarn is baby mohair and silk, so it is like knitting with what you wish spider webs felt like.  Once I'm finished I will block this beast, something I never do with my knitting, so I would imagine will post some pictures of that as well. 

 

As it seems that most of my friends are living in cold places, I've been making warm fuzzy things for people.  If you are my friend and are reading this and haven't received a warm fuzzy thing, all you have to do is ask.  The list is getting longer, but that doesn't mean that every item won't get checked off.  In the spirit of checking things off my list, here are a pair of socks that I've just finished for my friend who lives in chilly Chicago.

Unfortunately I had to be the foot model, as they are being mailed, and so my feet don't quite fill out the toes.  They came out nicely, though on the side there were times when I had to carry the colored yarn behind five stitches, so the white stripe where the instep meets the sole has a slight pucker.  Unfortunate but certainly not project destroying.  The colored yarn is variegated which accounts for the color changes.  The tiniest section of it was a beautiful olive brown, which was my favorite part, leading me to believe that I should just quit with the variegated, but I do keep coming back to it.  It is always an interesting surprise to work with, and I've heard people say that they just can't give up control to the variegation, but as a confirmed control freak, I find it a little relaxing not to have to think as hard about one aspect of the project and just let things flow organically. 

And speaking of organic flow, and releasing control, a sneak peak of some socks I'm working on for my mother.

An so, not only variegated, but a purple so bright I might go blind.  This picture is pretty accurate color wise, I didn't mess with the exposure.  But they are perfect for her, she picked out these colors, and the pattern is this neat mosaic pattern that is worked one strand at a time, slipping which ever color you aren't working with for two rows  It is awesome to work.  The author says "Mosaic patterns are magical." (italics hers) and she is right.  Both sock patterns from this post are in Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.  My mom's birthday is on February 14th, and I plan to send them to her then, and I'm pretty confident that I'll have finished them by then, at which point I plan to make something that isn't a sock.

 

After being pretty sure and everyone in the world now has a blog, and that there are enough craft blogs in existance to ensure that even if every one else who had a blog quit, there would still be an extremley populous blogosphere, and after creating two blogs and not posting on them at all, and then feeling bad for taking what I considered to be reasonably good blog names out of circulation, I am now inspired to share my own little crafting adventures with the world.  

Part of the inspiration is my most recently completed project, a pair of socks made for a gardener friend of mine.   I had given her a card with one of these little slug guys on it, and as I described my desire to make her a pair of socks (with my crafting urge constantly saying "FEED ME" like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors I'm always fostering new recipients of my projects), she promptly asked for socks covered in slugs and snails.  

The trickiest part by far was figuring out the "EZ-Shaped Instep" (what I've come to think of as V-sole) because the way I think that knitting directions should be written is often just slightly different from the way they are written.  On future socks I think I would start the V-sole sooner so that it created a little less of a diamond shape in conjunction with the toe.  Speaking of which, the toes came out a little more pointy than I would have liked, (and then the photos in the book lead me to believe they would).  My friend, however, is very appreciative and forgiving and found the point to be a wonderful ergonomic accomidation for her pointer toe.  

These cute little slugs and snails came from the briliant mind of Anna Hrachovec, the patterns are available free on her blog, and the sock pattern is out of Charlene Schurch's book More Sensational Knittend Socks.  These socks were knit on size 2 needles with Kertzer "On Your Toes" and Lana Grossa "Mega Boots Stretch Softcolor".