Monday, November 29, 2010

All things holey

My sock drawer is having a bit of a crisis: my favorite socks are all developing holes in the heels. It started out with the first pair of Kai-Mei socks that I had knit. Technically, these weren't in the sock drawer; I found them hidden in the closet with a couple of hand-wash only pairs of socks that I decided to wash last night. But they still had very nice almost holes in the heels. (Almost holes = sections that with only the slightest bit of wear will turn into nice big whopping holes, usually a stitch holding on for dear life by only one ply in a 3- or 4-ply yarn.) This morning when I went to grab a pair of socks to wear I noticed that one of my favorites was about to go. They look like these, but in the dusky aurora colorway (these were a gift for my dad a couple of years ago).

It's Gentleman's Shooting Stockings with Fluted Pattern from Nancy Bush's fantastic book Knitting Vintage Socks. I wear these socks all the time and you can definitely tell: the almost hole sits right next to the spot I've already darned on the heel.

Then when I got home this evening and pulled my boots off, I noticed that my shibui Pomatomus socks were looking pretty weak in the heels. I'll bet that they have only a few more wears left in them. Unfortunately, my malabrigo Pomatomus socks have seen better days, too.

This got me thinking, why are all of my favorite socks starting to go now? Then it hit me: I knit these all about two years ago when I was a teaching assistant and had plenty of in-class knitting time (not that I didn't have knitting time in the classes I was taking but that's another story). It seems like all the socks that I knit that semester are on their final stretch. I'd been putting off knitting more socks for me because my sock drawer seemed so full but it seems like it's time to get cracking.

Of course, I have several projects that I want to finish up first and I was able to make some good progress on them this weekend.

The alpaca cardigan is progressing nicely. I've joined the body and arms together and have made it through the first few rounds of raglan decreases.

It still needs a fair amount of work. After I finish the raglan seams, I'm planning a wide (3") ribbed edging up the sides and around the neck. Then it will just need some aggressive blocking on the ribbed sections since I want them to fall in line with the stockinette rather than pulling in like, well, ribbing.

I was most productive on the second of the Venezia pillows. At this point I have about half a chart repeat left before the edging rows. Hopefully I can finish that project up this week. Here's a quick shot of how it looks with the colors reversed:

I may have started a couple of other projects, too, but those will have to wait for another post. I've got a pillow to finish!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My first pattern!

I finished another scarflet a few weeks ago and haven't posted about it until now because I've been working on the pattern, too.

This one was worked with a single skein of Handmaiden Casbah on size 4 needles.

A while back Rachel had asked what I'm planning on knitting for holiday gifts this year. The short answer is "not a lot" - actually, I'm "outsourcing." But more on that later.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer you all a little pre-holiday gift instead: my first pattern.

Larch is a quick and easy little neck scarf that can be worked in a single skein of fingering or sock weight yarn.

I've linked to the ravelry pattern page because that's where I've posted the pdf. If you're reading this in a feed reader, the link is also available in the right sidebar on the main page of this blog.

I'd love to post the pdf here (or on google docs), along with a thumbnail pic. So, for those of you out there with more blogger/techie skills than I have, here are a couple of questions:

  1. How do I post a pdf on blogger?
  2. How do I put a thumbnail picture in the sidebar that links to the pattern? (I'd love something like the right-hand pattern list here)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Monday

I've been meaning to post for several days now but somehow things just kept coming up (little things like work and the fact that the apartment needed cleaning - that sort of stuff). So, to make up for lost time and because I don't have any better ideas for organization tonight, we're going to have Random Monday.

Here goes . . .

1. My yarn diet has been a spectacular failure so far. This happened:

(only the two WIPs on that table are not new yarn)

I had such good intentions last month of going on a yarn diet and working through the stash. And then we went out to Portland where I knew I was going to be able to pet Shelter (and want to buy some, to be perfectly honest) so I made an exception. But no new yarn purchases after that. I was pretty good. There was a rough week at work that resulted in a skein of Dream in Color smooshy in a lovely deep purple (it's a new color - I don't see it on their website). And then I heard about the Dream in Color factory sale this past Saturday. I hemmed and hawed. I love that company, but I should be on a yarn diet, but it's on sale, oh fine. Yes, the internal monologue sounded something quite like that. So DH and I drove out to one of the western suburbs Saturday morning and picked up some new additions for the stash. A delightful time was had by all. And believe it or not, my stash bins are actually rather full at the moment so I'm going to make it official:

2. I'm on a stash diet and I really mean it this time. New rule: no one residing in chez tinks and frogs is allowed to buy new yarn until 2011. That should take care of the little snaffoo I had a few months ago with the casbah for my pea vines shawl. I'm married to a yarn enabler, what can I say (other than thank you, of course)?

3. (more like 1(a)) If you're a yarn company with a website, it would be really nice if you'd update your color page. Posting on ravelry (with a link to facebook) that you've put out new colors is all well and good but if I want to see those colors again a couple of months later, I don't want to have to search forum threads. I should be able to just look on your website. Moving on.

4. I feel the stirrings of a strong case of startitis coming on. 

That's 5 skeins of Groovy in a lovely (but hard to photograph) deep blueish green. It's slated to become a snug for tadpole,  a thorpe for me, and something else depending on how much is left.

Here we have 3 skeins of smooshy, one of my absolute favorite sock yarns (if not my favorite). From right to left, these will become a pair of rick socks for me (it's all I can do not to cast on for those this very instant - does pregnancy cause yarn cravings, too?), husband socks, and something for tadpole.

This delightful skein is Dream in Color's new yarn base. Like smooshy, it's a superwash merino. But unlike smooshy, it is composed of 8 plies (compared with smooshy's 3). This should make for less pilling and more durability in the finished piece. I'm thinking that this little lovely wants to be something from Cookie A.'s sock book.

5. Have you seen Cookie A.'s latest offering? There are some old favorites like monkey socks that have been reworked in various sizes (a welcome addition for those of us with larger feet). Plus there are plenty of new and interesting designs, too. Even better, you can purchase this book as a pdf and then print out whatever pattern you're currently working on and mark it up to your heart's content without having to worry about losing it or defacing a beautifully photographed book. Or you could just read it on the new toy that your spouse is eyeing and that you want to "borrow."

How does a sock book fit in with the yarn diet? Well, it's not yarn but it goes against the spirit of the diet (especially when I have one lovely Cookie A. sock book already that I haven't worked all the way through). I guess the jury's still out on that one.

6. Speaking of socks, I finished a pair of husband socks last week.

The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, a nice sock yarn that wears well and has a great price point, not to mention lovely heathered colors. Of course, the 20% nylon fiber content that makes it wear so well also makes this yarn not quite as fun to knit (at least for me - I prefer a softer, smooshier yarn in my hands). But I absolutely despise darning socks so this one might be worth it since it wears so well. DH, who wouldn't take off the socks for the rest of the night after the photo shoot, assures me that they are indeed quite comfy.

What's the pattern? These look a lot like Anne Hanson's Bricker pattern and that's certainly what I was shooting for. But when I looked at the pattern, I realized that DH's feet were way too big for any of her sizing options. I didn't want to rework someone else's pattern so I pulled out my Barbara Walker treasuries and found a similar stitch pattern. Then I just plugged that pattern and my gauge into the basic sock size that fits DH (gigantic, in case you were wondering). It took two skeins of yarn (I do have plenty of leftovers) but now he's got a nice new pair of socks.

7. Which is a really good thing since I frogged everything that I had done on his latest pair of socks because they were too big. DH has absolutely enormous feet and I still haven't internalized their actual size. I started a basic sock in Cat Bordhi's upstream master pattern out of Lorna's Laces shepherd sock for DH a week or two ago and knit happily from the toe until the start of the heel shaping. I kept looking at the sock and thinking "this is really big," so I gave in and had him try it on and it was really big. Note to self: when Cat Bordhi gives you a table, pick a number from the table. Don't do your own math.

8. Second note to self: when you start sock #2, cast on 12 stitches on each needle with Judy's Magic Cast-on.

9. Tadpole hasn't been neglected either. I finally finished something for her instead of just frogging it. I had the day off work on Thursday so after taking care of various other things I started flipping through Barbara Walker volume 3, looking for a fun motif to put on a baby vest that I could knit out of a leftover most-of-a-skein of Dream in Color classy. Seven hours later I had this:

I'm pretty thrilled. Of course, I also have a few changes that I want to make to the design: mostly, I want to switch the bottom edging and seed stitch border out for garter stitch, which should add some more cohesion to the piece. Also, it would be nice to knit the whole thing out of one color. Happily, I have a full skein of classy in the stash so I'll whip up another one of these shortly. I even hope to have a pattern out soon.

10. Last, but certainly not least, two of my good friends have birthdays today. So happy birthday M and N! N, your present is half done. What do you think?

Pillow # 2 is on the needles so they'll be coming to you soon. And M, your present isn't knitted but I hope you like it, too!

Ok, I think that's quite enough for Random Monday. I'd better be going - I've got a stash to work through!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

FO: Terra

I'm in love. Thank goodness I have an understanding husband because I just can't get enough of this new wrap from Jared Flood. Here are the specs and then I'll go back to gushing.

Pattern: Terra by Jared Flood
Yarn: 4.25 (ish) skeins of Shelter in colorway Wool Socks
Needles: size 8 32" Addi Lace circular
Mods: none. absolutely none.

At first I was a bit worried about how (if) I was going to wear this piece since I often find large lace shawls a bit awkward and difficult to wear. But this is just a big cozy wrap. Adding in a pair of mittens, Terra provided all the warmth I needed while modeling outside yesterday (and I don't normally think of a long sleeved shirt as enough in 40-degree weather). I don't think I took Terra off all afternoon.

Shelter is an absolutely gorgeous yarn. It's pricey, so I won't be knitting all of my sweaters out of it (not that I wouldn't happily do that in a heartbeat) but it is well worth the price. The yarn has a bit of lanolin still in it, which you can feel while knitting - the yarn is soft but not super-soft. Boy, does that change after a bit of a bath. I soaked Terra in lukewarm water with a bit of Eucalan for 20 minutes and the transformation was amazing. The yarn bloomed a bit - not enough to really change gauge (but, to be perfectly honest, I didn't think about gauge at all on this project) - and became incredibly soft. It's absolutely stunning.

One thing you should be aware of with this yarn, however, is that there is a fair amount of vegetable matter. If that bothers you, don't buy it. But don't worry, it's pretty easy to deal with. I wound each skein by hand - no ball winder, just a swift and my fingers. After untwisting each skein, I'd pick off all of the pieces of VM that I could see. Then I put the skein on the swift and piked off other pieces of VM as I came to them while winding the ball. I still had to pick an occasional piece out here and there while knitting but it didn't interrupt me much at all. Just be careful when picking out the VM. Because this is a woolen spun yarn, the fibers and VM can get very tangled together and you run the risk of breaking the yarn if you're not careful when removing pieces of VM. 

One other nice thing about this yarn: it spit splices very well. I only had two ends to weave in: the cast on and the bind off tails.

And, before I forget, here are two things you should know about this pattern. First, you need 5 skeins, not 4 as the pattern calls for. I'd seen this mentioned a few times on ravelry before I bought the yarn and I'm really happy I followed this advice. Second, the sewn bind-off takes forever. It's not just you, this technique really does take ages. Far longer than you would think. But it's a great bind-off and I wouldn't use any other one for this project. It's incredibly elastic and blends in well with the garter stitch edge.

I wonder if I should make another one in green . . . 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hitting a wall

You may have noticed a conspicuous lack of baby knits here lately. Trust me, it's not for lack of trying or even a desire to keep things a secret (although the cat's pretty much out of the bag at this point anyway). I've cast on for several things for the tadpole and have plenty more that I would love to knit.

Here's my problem - I need an answer to an important question: how big are babies?

Yes, yes, I know I'll find out soon enough but I'd really like to know little things like how big the neck opening has to be if I'm knitting a cardigan. I started a February Baby Sweater last week with some gorgeous handspun (I'm sure I have a picture somewhere but I can't find it at the moment and my camera is not playing well with the lights in our apartment) but decided that the neck opening was way too small. Naturally, I frogged and then started over again with more stitches and pretty much made things up as I went. I'm at the point where you divide for the sleeves and the proportions just look a bit funny (did I mention that I was making this up along the way? or that I was knitting it during a day-long conference and so couldn't really focus on it and look like I was paying more attention to the sweater than the presenter?). This one is going to join the frog pond soon along with the rest of my failed baby projects. Resurrection will have to wait until I have taken the time to do a bit of research into baby proportions.

Of course, I'm thinking about this right now because I plan to sneak some knitting into what will probably be a fairly tedious event tomorrow and a baby item sounded perfect, except for the fact that I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to knitting for very small people. It's all well and good to say that the sweater will fit the recipient at some point when the gift is going to someone else's kid. But when I want to make something for my own to wear, I want to make it seasonally appropriate and that means I need to have an idea of how big the tadpole is going to be and when.

So, it's time to ask for help. Do you know any good resources for basic baby measurements/proportions? Honestly, I just need chest and neck circumference at various ages/weights but any recommendations will be very welcome.

(totally random photo just so I have one)

Thanks in advance! I'm off to figure out what to knit tomorrow. Maybe a sock. Maybe a shawl. Who knows?