Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homework

Lately our schedule has given us some free Sunday afternoons. Around here a free afternoon is like gold, so I've been using my time to tackle some things that require some time, patience and, well, time. Like patching up my Duckie socks, and this past weekend, I tackled homework.



I'm taking Cat Bordhi's all day class at Madrona and I wanted to have a good understanding of her take on "sock architecture" before I spent an entire Saturday wondering what the heck she was talking about. So this Sunday I sat down to knit the learning socks from her book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One.

So with a latte in front of me (an essential learning tool), her book spread wide open, I started the Little Sky Sock just like a beginner would. I knit these with dpns, but for the next pair, I think I am going to use Magic Loop.



These turned out a little bigger than I expected and my gauge was off, even though, yes, I did do a gauge swatch. Heave. A. Big. Sigh. This coming weekend I'll do the second learning sock, and keep reading the book.



In the meantime, my Toe-up Socks that I started in November, but got set aside for Christmas knitting are rolling along, (another of my UFOs that must be done before Madrona), and I am just so in love with this colorway that I've renamed the socks "Apple Blossom Toe Ups", because the colors have me wishing for spring and apple blossoms.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

February Swatches

After finishing the Vine Lace Cardigan this past week, I found myself at loose ends--literally, because I still need to bury a bunch, but also in the sense of what to do next. Does that ever happen to you? You finish something big, or challenging, or even something small, stranded and worked on size 1 needles, and you just feel a bit off-kilter. It happens when I finish a book--I sort of knock about my office for a week, impatiently pacing about, not knowing what to do next--even though the obvious answer is right there--clean the darn mess of papers and notes up.

And it isn't like I don't have UFOs circling my knitting basket threatening to make crop circles across my living room carpet, but there is something else on the horizon that drones out their buzzing.

You see, the problem this time is that I am itching to start knitting a vest for the Vest-uary group over on Ravelry. The goal is to knit a vest during February. Yes, February. Still, ever since I joined the group I've been in that impatient, pacing mode because I want to start knitting it now. But the calendar still says January.



So I've spent some of my pacing trying to figure out what vest to make. I've been struck by two things as I've mulled my choices--the wealth of ideas that Ravelry affords you and that you can waste spend a lot of time searching patterns and yarns looking for the perfect project.

I winnowed my choices down to three yarns from the stash:
  • Emu Naturally
  • Mountain Colors Twizzle
  • Irish Aran Tweed

And the following patterns (all Ravel linked)



This weekend I dug out all the patterns, the yarn, the necessary needles and started swatching, which helped narrow the choices--sort of my version of Survivor: The February Vest.



I had thought to use the Emu for the Honeycomb, but the Emu had other ideas. I bought this yarn off a Ravelry swap to make a sweater for my son, but when I got the yarn I knew it would never do for a kid. Can you see all that wooly matter sticking out and screaming, "I itch! I itch!" So this yarn would never fly with him, but I actually have little problems with wool, so I knew it would work for me.

Unfortunately, this yarn doesn't show any kind of stitch definition, it just sort of blends away in the variegated-ness of the yarn,and the added wooliness of it. So ix-Nay on the Honeycomb with the Emu. I may do just a plain vest with a large cable up the front with this yarn, but not right now.



Next, I swatched this Irish tweed that I got off eBay ages ago. I had thought I would make a sweater out of it, but I'm not sure I have enough. And after I saw how it took to knitting the Veste Everest cable and aran inspired stitches, got gauge right on, and how it softened up when I gave the swatch a little bath, it came out the winner for the February 1st cast-on competition.



In the meantime, I am swatting at the UFOs, including these Toe-up socks I cast on in November. Considering my collection of sock yarn, I need to get a little faster with the socks. I turned the heel last night:



I'm knitting these at the suggestion of Tiennie, by knitting them both together. So I knit one sock up to the gusset, then knit the other to the same spot. That was were they were when I set them aside for a flurry of Christmas knitting. Last night I turned one heel, and tonight I'll turn the other. Then see how much yarn I have left to knit up the cuffs. Hopefully this will be one less project waiting around until my Vest obsession runs its course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clunk!!

Look what fell off the needles today? My Vine Lace Cardigan. Another UFO moves to the done side of the board. Hurrah.



Okay, so it isn't completely done, because I still need to sew in the ends, and then block it, then sew up the sleeves. But the knitting is done and that counts for something.

Next up, I am going to try to finish my Post War Mittens before the end of January for NaKniMitMo over on Ravelry. Perhaps I should have been a little less ambitious and knit the Bella Mittens instead. Size 10 needles with yarn held doubled v. Size 1 needles and stranded fingerweight yarns. Yeah, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know which one is going to get done there.

Still, I want to make a pair of the Bellas for my Twilight mad SIL. I still may make them next month, as I now have a trip to Chicago on the books, so I could take them to her. Then I could use them to check a notch in both the Mitten KAL and the Year Long Gift-A-Long group.

I am just thrilled to have my finishing list moving along. Now with that big clunk from the Vine Lace Cardigan, the next three to finish are aforementioned Post War mittens, the Lacy stole and a cardigan I've had on the needles for probably five years. It's my oldest UFO and I am determined to finish it before it demands to be sent to Kindergarten. Yep, I'm cooking along.

How are your January resolutions working out?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Patcing up a Duck


I was doing laundry this week and discovered that my Duckies (Ravel linked) had lost their heel. Not just a little worn spot. The entire heel was just gone, like someone had gone Duck Hunting and just blown the heel out. Not sure how this happened, but to say the least, I was shocked and really bummed. I just finished these in September and now they were DOA. The picture above is of my Duckies in happier times.



But as I looked at that poor sock without a heel (there is a joke there, I mean we can all live without heels in our lives) I had some real qualms about throwing it out since the other sock was fine. Then again, on cold nights, I don't care if my socks don't match--one wool sock is as good as the next. Then again, I wasn't about to just toss all my work away--and that was the rub. I adore my hand knit socks, and I labor and labor to get them done, so I couldn't bring myself to pull the life support on this barely breathing sock.

No, it was time to do some good ol' fashioned fixin'. And yesterday afternoon I did just that.



I got out what I figured I would need: a yarn needle, the dpns I used to knit the sock, scissors and the leftover yarn. Now see, there is a reason to keep all those bits of sock yarn. Now it isn't like I haven't darned socks before. When I was a poor college student, I darned and patched just about everything I had and had a small side business repairing jeans. I remember my mom and my grandmother darning my dad's thick hand knit hunting socks, so operating on my poor Duckie couldn't be too hard.



I sort of examined the patient again, and slid one of my dpns into the first row that appeared to be entirely whole and intact.



then snipped back the really fuzzy stuff until I got to solid stitches I'd captured with the dpn. Then I did that all the way around. I went very slowly because I didn't want the entire thing to unravel, but having been worn a bit and the insides were all feltly, the stitches held together rather well.



Then I knit a round just to make sure all the sides were now solid, new stitches. Then knitting only on the sole stitches, I knit up a new heel, making a triangle out of the sole stitches. I'd decrease 1 stitch on both sides every other row, until I had about 5 sole stitches left.



Then I grafted the remaining 5 sole stitches to the 5 center back leg stitches, and then sort of grafted the knit edges of the new heel to the remaining live leg stitches, using an improvised Kitchener stitch. And voila, my Duckies, they live to quack another day.

I am disappointed in this yarn, (Three Irish Girls Kells Sport Merino) because the insides are felting to pieces, and they are wearing out so quickly, so I don't think I'll knock myself out to knit socks with it again.



In comparison, here is the first pair of socks I knit nearly eight years ago, and they too finally had the heel start to wear out. After eight years, not just a few months. Goodness, where did I put that leftover yarn . . .

Do you repair your hand knit socks?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Pitter Patter of . . .



FOs falling off my needles. What a happy sound. Especially since I have way too many projects on the needles. Ever since SCCD (Stash Come Clean Day), I've been concentrating on finishing, hoping to use this month to clear the decks of lots of UFOs, and then be able to go to Madrona with a clean slate ready for inspiration.

One of the first to fall were these Men's Fingerless Gloves, a KnitPicks pattern that I've done before for gifting. These were a last minute Christmas gift, as during Christmas dinner a friend leaned over and said, "Hey, would you knit me a pair of those?"

Sure, it's not like I don't have some extra yarn lying around. Out came the Mission Falls 1824 Wool I had leftover from some of last year's Christmas knitting. See, stash does come in handy.



But then I remembered why I don't like this pattern. The fingers are fussy to knit, and the mitt itself sort of pouches out above the cuff. I really had to force myself last weekend to sit down and knit the fingers. Okay, self, do two fingers and then you can knit something fun. This is not how knitting is supposed to be. But finally they fell off the needles, the ends were tucked in and it was gifted and out the door. Good riddance.



With the snowfall and disruption to the holidays, I also had time to knit up a pair of Fetchings for the kids' circus teacher. Yes, I send my kids to circus school. So when I tell them they can run away to the circus, I actually drive them there. But she's been so kind to Matthew that I wanted to do something special for her, so back into the stash and I dug up some Lion Brand Cashmere. It's a nice sub for Debbie Bliss.

I've made so many pairs of these fingerless mitts, that I have my own version of the pattern. I always add one more cable repeat to the wrist to make it longer, and then after I do the waste yarn for the thumb stitches, I reduce out the 4 knit stitches and a purl stitch right above the thumb over the course of the next 5 rows. It tightens up the portion around the fingers that if you don't reduce, on other pairs I've knit, gets way too loose.



But for every couple FOs, a girl's got to cast on something new. And to continue this theme of mitts and gloves and mittens, I did just that, starting up a pair of Postwar Mittens, from the Twist Collective. I've been eyeing the completed ones on Ravelry and just love this pattern and the endless possibilities. Pretty, huh?

And best of all? No fingers.

What have you cast on lately?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Loafer Love


I mean who could resist those cute little fluffy things?

I've turned into Tiennie Knits over these Malabrigo Loafers from Coco Knits. (BTW--did you see the shout-out Tiennie got in the Knit.1 Mag? Very cool!) But I've definitely caught her multiple fever as I've made 3 pairs of loafers in the last few weeks--the Christmas pair for my aunt, a pair for my Mom, and a pair for me. Last time I talked to mom she was packing hers in her suitcase to take to San Diego, I'm not sure if my aunt has taken hers off since Christmas, and I haven't taken mine off since last weekend because they are cozy, crazy warm.



This pair was made with a pink and rose combination. Mom chose not to have the froufrou decorations--if you knew my mom, you'd nod your head and say "no, of course not." But even without the funny little fluffs, I think they turned out cute.



When I got down to knit mine, I really wanted to use the green with black soles, but I didn't have enough of the black left to do both soles--but then in the process of cleaning out the stash, I found a little bit of leftover Malabrigo from my Axel Mitts and I was off and running. Here I've knit the soles and picked up the stitches with two circs along the edges.



I've churned through nearly 3-4 skeins of Malabrigo, (2 skeins of black, the entire rose skein, and a little over half of both the green and light pink) which makes this a good stash buster project and a great way to use up smaller skeins of other yarns. I'm thinking of making a pair in superwash wool for taking with me when I travel.



This pattern is easy to follow and I've gotten it down to where I can knit a pair in two nights--which makes them a great addition to the gifting repertoire. I score them with a pair of Fetchings if you need a quick gift. Great for getting a jump on Holiday Knitting or becoming She-Ra Queen of the Year Long Gift Along Knitters.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Really, I wasn't alive then

As I unloaded my stash last weekend and sorted it out. I also came across a pile of patterns from days long past--a sort of "Knitter's History" if you will. I discovered my mom's and grandmothers's favorite patterns, along with my collection that starts in the mid-80s, when I started buying my own patterns because "Ewww! Who wants to knit what their grandmother is knitting?!" As you'll see, times they have a-changed, and then again, not-so-much.

The oldest pattern I found was this one from 1953:



Notice the price? Twenty cents! Then again, welcome to my grandmothers's era of knitting. My maternal grandmother knit voraciously--even knitting dresses and suits out of fingering weight yarn. I know, because I have two of her dresses--which I used to wear when I worked in a law firm, because they are so classic, so eternal, that even though they were knit in the 50s. they still looked contemporary in the late 80s.



Isn't this just so cool? And the patterns aren't that much off from what you'd find on Ravelry today.

Sorted through a huge pile of dittos and photocopies of patterns, clippings from old magazines, old pattern books and newspaper articles, I realized my penchant for downloading patterns was an inheritance from my mother (and grandmothers) who clipped and made notations on the patterns they knit and, like all of us, planned to knit. I stopped on this page my mom clipped from Popular Needlework:



This is probably the late 60s, maybe early 70s, but I want that sweater. Just like it is called, I think this cardigan is still "Another All-Around Classic." Even 40 years later. But as we time travel forward, we hit the time when I shrugged off my Mother's Workbasket Magazine (seen here and looking very quaint and funky now):



And move into the real decade of fashion: the 80s. Coming to you live is a 1983 Patons knitting book. At least here the models all look like an Early Princess Di, but with bigger hair.



But I will say this for the 80s, we also had "Pat's Pointers" in the newspaper, a weekly column that featured questions from knitters. Can you imagine a daily newspaper publishing such a thing today? You see I learned to knit without patterns--I sat as countless girls did, beside my grandmothers and even my great grandmother when I was probably about 7 or 8 and followed what they did. And when I got to the point of knitting with patterns on my own, I had no clue how to read them. Here is one I saved with tips on SSK:



I have a couple of pattern books from the mid-80s that I will spare you the horrors. They feature models with Flock of Seagulls haircuts and are made up like Grace Slick. I shudder to look at them--especially the big shoulders and the modish intarsia. Ewww! Then again, maybe if I hang onto them in 40 years they'll look quaint and fashionable again.

God, I hope not.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Inside the Stash

Last weekend I jumped in and pulled out all the yarn. I dug it out of my office, from under beds, out of closets and came clean with what I had. My husband says that's the first step. Admitting you have a lot of yarn.



This here on the bed is just the stuff being sorted. There is more, believe me, there is more. My mom came over in the midst of all this chaos and her first response was "Elizabeth, I taught you better. Never drag this all out when your husband is at home." She-who-knows-what-she-speaks-of. Mom quilts. And has the closets of fabric to prove it. And normally she would be right, you shouldn't be flaunting your stash in front of anyone who isn't going to appreciate it or at the very least, be green with envy, but the DH was surprisingly calm about discovering what is really holding the foundation of the house up. Even now, four days later, I am not unconvinced that he might have been swapped out by aliens.



But here was the real shocker. This is my sock yarn. I'm not a huge sock knitter, but apparently I love me some sock yarn. And lots of sock projects with one sock knit and the other languishing. Look at all this up there. This bin is two skeins deep.

I have enough sock yarn here to knit up a pair of socks for every day of the month. And not some puny month like February, but a real meaty month with 31 days, like January or December. Believe me, the all day Cat Bordhi class at Madrona next month could not come soon enough. I hope she ignites my sock knitting mojo. Something has to. That or I am going to be knitting enough Baby Surprise Jackets to clothe a third world country.



And I know the next suggestion: knit mittens out of the sock yarn. That would be helpful if I didn't already have a bucket of "mitten yarn."

But more than just having a lot of yarn, (which I have inherited, thrifted, swapped, bargain hunted, shopped and collected like the proverbial girl who can't say no) I discovered some things I'd forgotten about, some projects that are just hours away from being completed, and some that just darn need to be frogged and the yarn set free. Yes, Elizabeth, step away from the yarn.



So I sorted the yarn as follows: Projects I most want to finish, Mitten yarn, sock yarn, sweater amounts of yarn, yarn for charity knitting, and finally, Good-God-whatever-am-I-going-to-do-with-this-yarn. I've got all the yarn I need for my Madrona classes, so no need to start obsessing that I don't have the right yarn.

I do.

As I sorted, my goals for 2009 became only too clear, other than the obvious two that my husband (who probably hasn't been snatched completely by aliens) is shouting at me from the other room (being 1) no more yarn and 2) Really, no more yarn). But with the sorting came an excitement all over again for these yarns. I collected them for some mad reason and now it is time to give them life. So for 2009, I plan on the following:

1) Christmas knitting all year long - which is doable. As long as everyone wants to get dishcloths and mittens. Oh, and socks. But they'd probably expect a completed pair, wouldn't they?




2) Charity knitting. I want to donate another 12 hats to Warm for Winter next November, so I think I will knit those during my cross-country travels this year. With at least four trips to the East Coast before July, I should be able to get the hats done at 40,000 feet and clear out a lot of Cascade 220 and other leftover wools. Perhaps more of the Basic Twined Hat (see above) by Lisa Ellis or Tiennie's Norwegian Star Earflap Hat.

Best of all, I know these hats go to men and women in my community who have very little and it is a humbling process to knit for them. I saw evidence of this first hand on the news the other day as they were interviewing people in a homeless shelter and they all had hand knit hats on. Every single person. I smiled to myself. There were Sister Tufte's hats being put to work. God bless her for conceiving this project and infusing all us local knitters with the desire to help.



3) Finally, finish the first bin of yarns I sorted out. Which includes using this Mountain Colors Twizzle I bought make a vest out of. Along with two sweaters that are nearly finished, a couple of shawls and scarves and some lonely socks looking for mates. Apparently eHarmony does not match solo socks. Really, after Ravelry, wouldn't a source for the other half of your single socks be a godsend?

What have you resolved for 2009? Have you ever aired your stash?

Monday, January 05, 2009

She loved it!!!



With all the snow that came down on Christmas Day, my mom and brother and his family couldn't make it to our house for Christmas dinner. So we put it all off for a week and had Christmas on New Year's Eve.

I was so excited about the Clapotis I had made for my mother, (Ravel linked) that I was a little disappointed at having to wait (well, heck I'd had it finished and blocked a week before Christmas!) but it was well worth it. She wrapped it around her shoulders and didn't take it off all evening, declaring it "perfect and gorgeous" as only a mother can. Christmas knitting accomplished!

Now I want to make one for myself. But I am going to hold off buying anything for a bit. You see, I spent last Saturday pulling out every skein of yarn I own. But more on that in my next post. Which should be called, "Treasure Untroved."

How did your Christmas knitting fare?