This is going to be a photo heavy one!
In October, we dyed yarn!  Yarn dying always seemed a little more messy than I like, but it also seemed like a fun way to interact with the fiber.  As regular readers may have noticed, I make a lot of socks for my mom.  It is easy because her feet are the same size as mine, it is quick because those feet are little, it is fun because she likes funky stuff so I have a lot of freedom.  Also, because she lives in the southeastern US, she doesn't have much use for anything else made of wool!  She is also super crafty, so I knew she would enjoy dying the yarn for her own socks.
We ordered dyes and sock blanks from Knitpicks.  Sock blanks are pieces of pre-knitted fabric that have been knit using two strands of sock yarn held together.  They basically look like long loose knit scarves.  The idea is that you dye them, and then unravel them and knit them into socks two at a time.  The particles of dye are not healthy, so we suited up and mixed up the dyes.
My pretty momma!
From information we found online, we dyed the yarn in patterns with a basic idea of what was going to happen on the socks.  Stripes might translate to dots or stripes depending on their direction and thickness.  Blocks of color on the block might make blocks of color on the sock, or they might make general ideas of color broken up and mixed with other colors in thin stripes.  I like control over my projects a little too much to love this, but it was fun.  My mom dyed two blanks, my husband dyed one trout inspired blank, above on the left, and I dyed one, begrudgingly.  I felt stressed out about it all the way through, but I like the way it came out in the end.
All per instructions, after we dyed the yarn, we wrapped it up in plastic wrap,
and steamed the little yarn wraps to lock in dyes.  The smell was not great, and the pots can never be used to cook food again, but we were able to pick up the pots for not much at the Salvation Army before hand.
Here is what a sock blank looks like in the process of knitting.
Stripes becoming stripes.
And before I get on to the result, here are some socks I made for my mom to give her on this trip.  They were an atonement for us not going home for Thanksgiving, but also, they were super fun to make!  They are the Kalajoki pattern (the Kalajoki is a river in Finland, and these definitely have a flowing vibe).  They knit up very quickly and required enough attention to keep them interesting.   I changed the pattern a little bit by using the yo-yo heel.  Also I finally got to use this beautiful Trekking yarn that I had not been able to make work in other patterns.
So, here are some hand dyed hand knit socks:
I went with the old reliable Skew pattern because I know it fits my mom's feet, and also I wasn't sure how the yarn was going to act.  I think the nicest thing was the depth of the coloration of the yarn caused by the inconsistency of the dye application.  There were some light spots, and some colors that weren't part of the original dye scheme, but came about through the dyes combining on the wool.  I can certainly understand why, years ago, they were so thrilled to be able to get machine dyed, consistently colored yarns.  Now we want to see the hands and the process.  Especially in something you dyed yourself, it is fun to see the hands.  I'm sure an experience dyer would not be as pleased, but thankfully my perfectionism doesn't extend that far.
I also did a pair for my dad!  This is just my old reliable "man sock pattern" that I've been developing and feel pretty satisfied with.  Finished just moments before mailing, they came out great!  These were the result of long vertical stripes of dye.  I'm dying them in the shot above on the right.  Again, really pretty surprise colors showed up where the dyes overlapped.  That overlapping happened because we didn't add vinegar to the dyes before we applied them.  No regrets here on that front!   
And the bonus project for this time around is a rather old one, but they came out great, so I'm sharing.  I was planning to make 4, which, is just not going to happen for a while, so here they are, I'm calling the project finished.  Here we have an example of inadvertent pooling that I've resolved to be okay with.  I hope they have a festive vintage feel, cause that's what I was going for.  They are 100% cotton, crocheted from a free Red Heart pattern.
My goodness, with all the gifts given, I feel like it's a good time to clear my slate for 2013 blogwise.  I'm not going to dump everything into one post (not yet), so expect a few posts over the next few days (hopefully), and I'll try to arrange them thematically.  
Happily, one of my dear friends is expecting a child in January, and I was able to attend the West Coast baby shower for this East Coast friend over the Thanksgiving holiday.  
My first thought was that a winter baby needs layers!  I adore the Poppy Hat.  It is so easy yet interesting and I recommend it to anyone looking for a pattern for a little girl.  I worked all these pieces in newborn size, risky I know, but so cute!  I think this hat has the most potential to last for a little while though.  The band is very flexible, and the difference between sizes for babies is only a few stitches.  I wanted the embellishments for this set to be spring-y so I found a butterfly for the brim from 75 Birds, Butterflies & Little Beasts to Knit & Crochet.  
I chose a kimono style cardigan for the sweater.  The main thing I understand about dressing a baby is that you have to dress and undress them frequently because they expel a lot of bodily fluids all over themselves, and also that their heads are giant.  So a sweater that would be easy on and off seemed like a plus.  The front panels are worked on the diagonal, which was also a point of interest during the knitting.  The arms seem impossibly narrow, but that remains to be seen I guess.  The embellishment for this sweater is a little caterpillar from the 75 Birds, etc. book.  
Last but not least, because they are so sweet, some little thumb-less mittens with embroidered lady bugs.  These also are knit on the bias and they were very quick to make up.  I'm pretty much 100% that one of them is going to end up in a pile of dirty slush by the side of the road, but I'm good with that :)  I would definitely rather everything I make get used to its fullest and giving stuff to kids seems like the best way to ensure that.  
A perfect fit!  The yarn is 100% acrylic so that they won't have to worry about washing carefully, and the color choice was inspired by the pink shells, which is just what I think of when I think of little babies.
And to finish off this post, a different gift for another dear friend celebrating a milestone.  Though she eloped, I managed to quickly whip up this little bridal hot dog brooch.  The pattern comes from Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi.  I don't think I could have managed another wedding blanket in this calendar year anyway, so I guess I'm thankful for the elopement :)  They'll get something later, never fear!
This blanket is for a lovely couple, Dan and Jess, who live in the Boston area.  I knew it needed to be warm and classic and casual and big because this was another "tall groom" situation.  
I took my inspiration for this blanket from the wedding site.  The couple got married on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, at the same site where my husband and I got married five years ago.  It is a beautiful verdant location with ferns and pines and birch trees.  I really felt like I wanted to make a blanket evocative of the place.  
I started out with a pattern from an amazing 1968 Bernat pattern book of my mother's.  I may have fallen prey to the wonderfully kitschy styling in the photo shoot.  It should have been a dream, worked on large needles, yarn held doubled.  But goodness, I just didn't like the pattern.  It seemed to take ages to get one row finished, and I couldn't keep the tension even between the two strands of yarn.  
So I said phooey!  I put the blanket aside, made the several blankets you have seen recently on this blog, and a few pairs of socks beside.  But I always knew I would need to come back to this blanket and this yarn and make something beautiful.  
At some point between giving up on the Bernat pattern, and actually starting to re-knit, I found a pattern I really liked.  The Serenity pattern looked fun to knit, and warm, and lovely.  It was written for worsted weight yarn, which is what I had.  The only catch was that it was written as a baby blanket size.  I mentally prepared to have to figure out how to expand the size.  Behold my surprise when I finally went to (re)start the blanket, and found that an intrepid Raveler before me had already worked out the graphs to expand the blanket, and the designer had linked to those graphs from the project homepage.  It was like a Christmas present in July.  
I worked an applied border, mostly because I really wanted to have a cable go all the way around, and i didn't want to knit it separately and sew it on, because that way lies madness.  Because the cable isn't as stretchy as a garter stitch border, it did result in a slight ripple to the edge, but who knows, maybe it's charming?  I think the ripple does add to the overall lusciousness of the blanket.  
And, a bonus project:
A birthday gift for my supervisor.  I think the bluebird of happiness is a potent symbol and this pattern was a fun knit, one piece with short rows for shaping.  An improvised party hat is the cherry on top. 
I've got quite a few finished projects to talk about! 
And the weddings are all wed, so I can get to talking. 
The first finished, and almost the last given, is this lovely square throw.  Photo maybe not the best, but listen people, you run out of ways to photograph a blanket and you want to mix it up a little, and sometimes you don't hit it out of the park, but I think you can get the idea!
I chose traditional wedding ivory and used a wool/acrylic blend so the happy couple won't need to worry about washing instructions, or finding a place to dry a blanket in their Brooklyn apartment with curious cats.  This blanket was a breeze from start to finish, so enjoyable to knit that I made a second one, which has already appeared in an earlier post here.  I went in a totally different direction with the second iteration, making it in grey and giving it a striped border.  I love that one, but I also love the simplicity of this one.  Both have the central motif that suggests a compass rose to me, which seems an auspicious symbol for a newly married couple.  Also I love the bobbles, and the simplicity of the eyelet rows for the border that give the blanket a vintage feel.  Yay for Steve and Fran and I wish we could have been at what was, from all accounts, a most lovely wedding full of thoughtful touches. 
And since I'm attempting to feature these wedding blankets, but also play catch up, thrown in at the bottom is this little guy:
He's from the Anna Hrachovec's book Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi.  Her patterns are great go-tos for quick cute knits, and he was a birthday present for a friend of mine who just turned 4!  Congrats Graham!  There really isn't anything to indicated scale in this photo, but lets just say he's as big as a large grape.  Like, one of the big dark purple dusty grapes that are full of seeds.
I'm so excited to share this project with you because it has been finished since March!  
The more I knit, the more comfortable I am altering patterns.  I mostly find my patterns on Ravelery, and when I find a pattern I like, I scroll through other people's projects to get a feel for common improvements.  I hardly ever do a test run (a swatch).  I usually just cast-on for the project and if it is coming out terribly I take it apart, and then again, and then again.  I love to jump into a project and then I like to look at the item as it develops and respond to inspiration as it strikes.
At any rate, the net result of plowing ahead is sometimes ending up with a shopping bag full of kinky yarn when you pull the whole thing out.  I think it is important to emphasize how many times I take things apart.  I know a lot of people view un-knitting as the end, but to me it is just a step towards a project that I will find really satisfying.  When I ask someone what they think of a questionable project in progress and they say "yeah, that's fine, you won't notice when you're finished," that drives me nuts, because I will notice, and I don't want to spend hours on a project that is fine!  On the other hand, I love the line "no one will notice that from a galloping horse."  and I hypocritically give this advice to people all the time.  You know if you'll care later, and if you will, rip it out!
This blanket is mostly from a free Lion Brand pattern.  For this project, the main divergence from the pattern was doing a wide moss stitch border instead of the more fussy leaf shaped border in the pattern.  Deciding about the thickness of the border was one of the reasons I had to take this blanket apart so many times.  I also framed out each section of design with stocking stitch and moss stitch sections.  These changes made the blanket slightly larger than written, a plus in this case as the groom of this couple (as all the grooms this summer seem to be) is quite tall, and I think the framing of each section made the whole blanket design more modern without losing the heirloom quality.  
I made this pattern because I fell in love with the intertwined trees.  They are such a perfect wedding symbol, especially for this couple who has grown, both individually and together, through the years.  The flower panels were another story, and there was much ripping back, much searching of Ravelry, much testing of different techniques, and much uncertainty.  Ultimately I do like the way the floral sections balance the arboreal sections, though I'm curious to hear in a year if there is a problem with snagging . 
This blanket is knit with 100% wool, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool which is an amazing bargain, and so blocking was a must.  For the blocking process I took a cue from my recent experience blocking shawls, and wove crochet thread along each edge.  That gave me a firm, sturdy string to pull tight to make the edges straight.  I did this instead of trying to pin out all the edges strait.  So instead of using a gazillion pins I used about 20.  I also recently read that the first time blocking is the most important, because it teaches the wool its new shape, and that treatment after subsequent washing doesn't need to be as labored.  That makes me feel slightly less guilty about giving 100% wool items.   (I can't find that link now though, so don't quote me!)

I love the final result and I hope the happy couple can love it for years to come.  
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.  
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.)  
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.  
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.   
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.  
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 :)