Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Literary Effort

Hi, everyone--I hope you are having good and relaxing vacations. I'm still away from home, so no pictures, but I do have something to blog about . . .

K and I happened to stop by a bookstore here (okay, so we "stop by" any bookstore we run across, so what), and it was going out of business. Bad for them, but good for me--everything was on sale. I immediately raided the knitting books, of course, and came away with a bunch of stuff.

I snagged the Yarn Harlot's latest, Free-Range Knitter. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I enjoyed her first book of essays, but as always with Stephanie, it was witty and well-written. Definitely worth the read.

For reference, I got two of the new Harmony guides: Cables & Arans and Lace & Eyelets. After looking through them more closely, I'm glad I didn't pay full price. These'll be handy to consult, but the editing is terrible--duplicated patterns, misindexing, text errors--you get the picture. NB: check every pattern before knitting.

I also picked up three books of patterns proper. The most interesting is definitely Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr. This isn't a book for beginners or people who just want a damn pattern already. The author is obviously insane, but in a good way, and the book is gorgeously produced--beautiful photos, high-quality paper, detailed instructions, and so forth. The scarves themselves are crazy. Among others, there's one designed to look like a string of pearls and one designed to look like a high-rise in Dubai. A wonderful, inspirational book.

On the other end of the spectrum entirely, I got The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd, a collection of basic patterns for socks, gloves, mittens, hats, sweaters, etc. I have forever been longing for such a book--my college friends will tell you about my adventures in adapting whatever pattern I could find to whatever materials I had handy. I expect this will be a great resource.

Lastly, I picked up It Girl Knits, by Phoenix Bess. Unfortunately, I already regret it. I bought it for a single sweater pattern which looked good, thinking there might be a few more things worth knitting in the book. After reading it over, though, I don't think it was worth it. The sweater is the only thing I'd even consider knitting, as things stand. The rest of the patterns fall into two categories: so ridiculously easy why pay money for the pattern (headbands, kerchiefs, felted bags consisting of two rectangles stuck together) or so absurdly impractical you've gotta be kidding me (yoga pants, halter-top dresses, bikinis). Although I guess I now have MULTIPLE options should I ever need to knit someone a bikini. Another irritating thing--since the patterns are frequently slinky, skimpy, and clingy, they require specific yarns and caution against substititution. A definite negative for the creative knitter working on a budget. In conclusion: sorry, Phoenix. Go back to high school and try again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy holidays!

I'm off to my parents' for Christmas, then spending some time with my main squeeze for the New Year. Regular blogging will resume mid-January (when my camera and computer are reunited once again). In the meantime, have a merry Christmas if that's your thing, and a happy Pagan Winterfest all-around.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Et voila!

Behold, the finished shawl! Doesn't it look nice and cozy? It's not a large shawl, but that's good, I think--just big enough to pin around the shoulders and not get in one's way.

(To give you a sense of scale, my bed's a queen.)


The natural light picture gives you a better idea of the colors--they're not really as dark as they've been showing up.

Project complete. Now on to bigger and even better things . . .

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The magic of blocking

The last time we left our heroine, she was approaching blocking a finished shawl that, she thought, was probably going to be a complete failure.

Au contraire! Behold the magic of blocking. I'd never blocked lace before, or something so large. Most of my previous blocking efforts were pretty tentative--I'd adjust a few things here or there, maybe use a few pins, but nothing like this. This required my futon, a clean sheet, and approximately 432984029 pins. (True to form, I didn't use the proper quilter's T-pins, just regular old dressmaker's pins. They worked fine when placed at the right angle.)

Since this was my first time blocking lace or a shawl, I relied heavily on Eunny Jang's tutorial. Of course, once again true to form, I substituted some elements. I once again relied on my handy mixing bowl for soaking the shawl, and for a longer straightedge I used a broom handle. (Really. Apparently I don't own a yardstick.) For shorter intervals I used my trusty 12" ruler. Since the shawl was worked with fingering-weight wool and the pattern is mostly stockinette, it didn't need to be blocked very severely. As you can see, though, I definitely needed to pin out the points.

And what a difference it made. The points pop. The end looks gawgeous. And now, as Anne Hanson would say, for the money shot.


I am now a committed laceophile. I was frequently frustrated throughout the knitting of this, but going through with the blocking and seeing the results . . . I think I'm hooked. Check back next time for pics of the finished shawl in all its glory.

(I apologize for the poor lighting. My spare room has but one tiny window.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lace: the continuing saga

So the lace knitting referred to so mysteriously hither and yon was the Wild Flower Shawl designed by Dee of Posh Yarn.* The reason I kept it mysterious is that it was knitted as a birthday/Christmas gift for my dear friend Jane, who reads this, and of course I couldn't spoil the surprise.

I used two different yarns, Schaefer Yarn's Anne (60% merino/25% mohair/15% nylon) and Dale of Norway Baby Ull (100% merino), as I wasn't sure I'd have enough Anne to complete the edging. This, I admit in retrospect, was a mistake. Despite both being fingering weight, the Baby Ull is much poofier and knits up more firmly than the Anne, at least on these needles. This resulted in some . . . interesting challenges when it came to attaching the border and blocking. Despite all that, though, I ended up pleased with how it looked--eventually.


But it looks pretty wretched now, eh? This is the shawl pre-blocking, all rumpledly and out of true. The edges rolled up, everything was uneven, I didn't know WHAT in the world I was going to do with the point. In all honestly, I thought I'd made a gigantic mistake and would have nothing to show for my efforts. Little did I know! Check in next time for my ventures into blocking.

*I'd like, once again, to express my fangirlesque admiration for this site. Such pretty yarn, such nice people.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Works-in-progress update

Much knitting has been accomplished of late! Since I was at K's for the holiday, my travel projects got some time in. These are usually small, light, and portable stuff--a la lecture knitting--but they don't need to be so simple. Hence, Travelling Roses got some attention paid to it. I'm really liking the pattern so far--it's well-designed, and it looks nice even in the rumpled pre-blocking state. Even better, the repeat is really long (44 rows), so it never gets boring or repetitive to knit, and there are only 13 repeats. Excellent for the knitter with a short attention span. (I love how in the picture you can see errant dog hairs clinging to the scarf. Everything I knit has an unusual fiber content.)

I also did some work on the toe-up Regia socks. After working my way up the foot, I used the short row heel from Wendy Johnson's Generic Toe-Up Sock Pattern. It looks fine, but I think I'll try something new when I knit another pair of toe-up socks. I find the wraps kind of irritating to work with. This is a good lecture-knitting-type project. I can work on it in the car or on the phone or in the dark. And the stripes happen like magic! (Have I mentioned how fascinating I find the self-striping yarn? Once or twice, perhaps?) I do like the toe-up method, too--I may knit all my basic socks toe-up from now on. If nothing else, you cast on fewer stitches, which appeals to those of us who hate casting on.

Since finishing my last big project at home, I've begun work on these. You guessed it--another pair of North Star Mittens, same yarn as before. Since the last effort resulted in mittens a little too big for me, I'm knitting them in the smallest size this time. It's working fine so far . . . It's amazing how using all this very lightweight yarn changes one's perspective. The first time I knit socks in actual fingering-weight yarn, I spent the whole time thinking "this is sooooo sloooooow . . ." Now, after spending all my time with the Regia and the Diana, the DK Cashsoft seems huge. If I ever knit something in worsted weight again, I'll probably be shocked at how quickly it goes.

Having launched myself well into Travelling Roses, I'm already looking ahead to my next lace project. There are so many patterns out there, free or not, and they're all so gorgeous. I'm thinking another scarf or two, to earn my lace credentials, and then something bigger, maybe an Anne Hanson shawl. Now THAT would be a challenge . . .

On another note, I finally figured out how to turn off the flash on my camera. Hooray!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mmmmm . . . brioche . . .

So I mentioned that I wanted to make a Reversible Cabled Brioche Stitch Scarf a few posts back. A clunky, if descriptive, name; I shall call it simply Brioche. I knew exactly what yarn I would use the moment I saw the pattern. I bought some Alpaca Silk last summer, with the vague notion of making myself a scarf. I could eat this yarn, it's so delicious. I have four colors: Plum (128), Amethyst (129), Wisteria (114), and Blush (133), so the plan is stripes. I'm not quite sure how it'll work with the pattern--I may have to sneak in a few knit rows, but I think the curves will hide any color jogs. This is typically me--I follow patterns exactly as written . . . except when they don't say what I want them to say. Then I just alter them and pretend. Another example: the pattern calls for worsted-weight, but the Alpaca Silk is DK. It'll just give me a slightly looser scarf, no biggie. And mmmm, alpaca and silk.

I've cast on and begun knitting, but I haven't reached the first of the cables (or a point to switch colors) yet. Further bulletins as events progress.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ack

Updates as soon as I can catch my breath and take some pictures!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm out of town for the holiday--proper blogging-with-pictures will resume when I'm back home. In the meanwhile, enjoy your turkey (or tofurkey or whatever; I'm no stickler for details).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, at home, abroad, celebrating or no--surely we can all get behind a day where the point is to cook a ginormous meal and eat it with those you love?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stripey

This is the scarf (with matching hat) inspired by Perdita's Gryffindor scarf. I knit the scarf in the round to avoid having a right side and wrong side, with the bonus of extra warmth and cuddliness. I believe it was knit on size 8 needles. The wool is a merino/silk blend I have long since lost the info for. (The label was green, it had a picture of a sheep, and it came from New Zealand. If only I could remember useful things.) It obviously passes the neck/head test, as I've been wearing these for almost two years now.

This picture gives you a bit more of a look at the hat (and slightly truer colors--the green is cool, but not really that cool). It was adapted from a pattern in Hip to Knit, the first knitting book I ever bought. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I've made my share of fairly hilarious mistakes working from it (ask Jane about her furry hat . . .), but it's never been the fault of the author. Mostly my refusal to swatch for gauge. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I didn't adapt this pattern from Hip to Knit. This could be the hat I adapted from the pumpkin hat. Erm. Well, what can I say, I've knit a LOT of hats, and my memory has quite a few holes. And I've knit the Most Basic Hat from Hip to Knit so many times that I've obviously lost track. In any case, I still recommend the book. It's a good book.

And finally, a picture of hat and scarf in use. I call it "Portrait of the Knitter, with Flash." Regarding the shirt, when I was wearing it once, K looked at me in puzzlement and asked, "Why do you have a Louisiana State shirt?" (Bear in mind that I lived my whole life in the northwestern US until I moved a few years ago to upstate New York, and none of my family or close friends live in Lousiana.) As it happens, it was a souvenir from a trip my mother took to Baton Rouge, but it got me thinking. I have rather a lot of collegiate shirts . . . but only one from my actual alma mater. I really should get more, considering how much I loved it there--and how ratty all my other shirts have gotten.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Instant gratification

If you want some, go knit a baby hat. It's like knitting a real-person hat, only all darling and wee and QUICK. And just when you get bored, you're decreasing!

I knit a hat for a friend's baby (congrats, Laurel!) earlier in the fall, and I had enough yarn leftover to knit another for my friend Jane's sister's little boy. Since I didn't yet know what gender the kid was when I knit the first hat, I chose neutral colors.* The yarn is Plymouth Earth Mainland in colors 1 and 3 (cream and tan).

This yarn is delicious--baby alpaca and silk. I'm wool-sensitive and can't wear many yarns next to my head or neck, but I could so wear this. I could wear a bra made out of this. Nice for baby heads. And nice to work with as well.

I used the Umbilical Cord Hat from Stitch 'n Bitch. It's a pretty good pattern--sort of over-written if you're an experienced knitter. (I spent way too long looking for what "pm" meant, as I assumed it was a fancy decrease or something. It meant "place marker.") It knits up quickly and easily, although of course I had to make it all fancy with the stripes. It turns out that striped i-cord is a bitch.

I'll get Jane's sister to send me a picture of the hat in action, so you can see how devastatingly cute it is. The pictures don't really do it justice.

*If I were an infant I think I'd get sick of pastels. "Just give me earth tones, Jesus," I imagine them saying.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I am a knitting ninja

I'm working on a project I can't blog about yet, so the details must necessarily be vague. As I was nearing the end of one chunk of knitting, I saw that the ends of two pieces wouldn't graft neatly together like the pattern said they would. (I blame this on my reckless disregard for gauge. I am also a knitting anarchist.) But I did not despair. Rather, I counted my stitches, fired up Excel, and charted a new way to fit the pieces together, incorporating a variation on the previous design. Then I started to knit, and, lo and behold, my solution is working.

This is why knitting is so cool. There's always some sly and clever fix, a new way of doing things, that transforms what could be disaster into an opportunity. I was at my local yarn store yesterday and fell into conversation with an absolutely wonderful woman who was there working on a sock. We traded tips and observations about all sorts of knitting ephemera--from blocking to heels to toes to the cheapest websites--and discovered odd connections (we shared the same first name, her son is moving to Boise shortly). I left the store feeling great about myself, my town, and the knitting community at large. Knitters are awesome because they're friendly, clever, creative, and resourceful.

And now my project will be finished in a way that no one else's has ever been. It's my unique mark. How cool is that?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oy

Busy busy busy. I've been knitting rather a lot, but (of course) haven't gotten around to taking pictures. In my defense, I was away all weekend, doing fun things, such as getting locked out of my car (keys in the ignition and all) at a gas station in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. With the headlights on. For the record, this is a Bad Idea.

Today I had a language exam for my degree--my hand aches from all the writing. Regular blogging will resume in a few days, once I have time and pictures.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gradient

K's scarf is done! It was a nail-biter. I very carefully calculated how much yarn I would need to save for the ribbing and bind-off, so I could use as much of the yarn as possible . . . and forgot to account for the increases I would be making in the first ribbed row. /facepalm. I had more than enough yarn to finish the ribbing, but it came up short during the bind-off. I was forced to cannibalize from the cast-on and ended up binding off the last eight stitches or so without any added yarn. Fortunately, it was a small enough area that it didn't cause undo puckering. Still, a lesson for next time. At least I don't have to wonder what to do with the leftover yarn . . .

Anyway, I finished the scarf last week and washed it over the weekend. Having limited space and resources makes for somewhat . . . creative finishing. I handwash anything that needs it in a mixing bowl in my sink--works great for socks and scarves. Rather than expensive wool wash, I use a bit of my regular liquid laundry detergent in cold water. (I use whatever unscented brand's the cheapest, usually; I like All.) To dry, I covered part of my futon with clean towels and laid the scarf out flat on top. I didn't block it, but I did shape the ends with a bit of a flare so the ribbing wouldn't scrunch up.

I'm very pleased with how it turned out. The finished dimensions are about four feet by four and a half inches--it won't be overly long on K. (I personally find too-long scarves annoying, but to each her own.) I especially like how the wool starts dark at both ends, fades to the light pewter color, then darkens to near-black at the middle. Completely unintentional at my part, but it looks darn spiffy regardless. Despite my struggles with matching the colorway, I'd definitely knit with this yarn again. It's really soft and snuggly. All in all, a lecture-knitting success.

I've been playing a bit with my new camera. This knitting photography stuff is hard. It's impossible to get any detail in the scale shots--that first picture gives you a good idea of the scarf dimensions and the colors, but for my money, the beauty's in the close-ups. I will continue to experiment! (Although feedback would be nice, hint hint.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not one color but two


Way back in the day, the lovely Katie gave me this book. Over the summer, I finally got around to knitting something from it.

These are the North Star Mittens, in Rowan Cashsoft DK, colors 500 (cream) and 521 (burgundy). I love this yarn--the acrylic will make it sturdy enough for mittens, while the merino and cashmere make it a pleasure to knit with. I think it also passes the "can Lanafactrix wear it around her neck?" test.

The pattern, not so thrilled. It was a bit confusing to read, with several major errors (including one in one of the charts). Having three sizes to choose from is nice--but not at the expense of pattern clarity. These were originally intended for me, but it turns out that my hands are not as ginormous as my feet. This is the medium size pattern, which is just a bit longer than I'd like in the fingers. Since I had more than enough yarn leftover--I bought four skeins, and these used less than a skein of each color--I'll just knit myself a pair in the smaller size and give these away for Christmas.

On the other hand (you see what I did there), despite my struggles with the pattern, the mittens were a quick and relatively painless knit, and they sure do look purty. This was the first time I'd done stranded knitting--I'm very pleased with the result. I can't figure out ~quite~ how to get my colorwork completely flat, but I think that will come with practice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stash dive!

In the interest of keeping the readership entertained between actual projects, I thought occasionally I'd dig into the stash and show you some stuff I don't quite know what to do with or simply think is awesome.

To that end, I give you: wool. This is 100% alpaca, about 130 yards per skein. I visualized it as a scarf the first time I saw it--a nice, stripey scarf. But there are some problems with that. It's sportweight, so to make a winter scarf it'd have to be knit very densely, and I have less than 300 yards to play with. It might end up as the world's shortest scarf. I could knit socks, but that would require the enormous pain of reinforcement thread. It's soft, but it might be too scratchy to wear around my neck, so I think it'd have to be a gift scarf if that's how I use it. It's not light enough for lace, it's not heavy enough for socks . . . what say you?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In which I am a hypocrite

So you remember how I was "sooooo busy" and I didn't "have any time" to make anything?

Erm. Well. May I introduce you to the newest members of my household?

This is the beginnings of a Travelling Roses scarf, in Posh Yarn's Diana, colorway Mischief. It's very fiddly and tiny, but I think it'll be really lovely if I can get past the knit three togethers and such. Speaking of which, I'm having trouble making some of the decreases with my customary wooden needles. If I keep having these difficulties, I may have to get over my aversion to metal needles. They do say Addi Turbos are the best for lace . . . This scarf doesn't really need a circular needle, though--it's only 51 stitches and fits easily onto my 7" DPNs. I don't even need point caps to keep the stitches from escaping.

As well as the fiddly knitting, I cast on a sock for something plainer. This is Regia Silk (55% merino/25% polyamide/20% silk) colorway Nairobi. I lurves it so. It's a dream to work with, and the colors are fascinating. I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I enjoy seeing the stripes form and which colors come next. It's a toe-up sock, a new departure for me--I wanted to get the most out of this yarn, so I grabbed the nearest toe-up pattern and cast on. I'll be deviating very heavily from said pattern, so I have ~no~ idea how this'll turn out. (If people want, I can talk more about toe-up construction and such in another post?) But in the meantime, this will be good mindless knitting.

Also, I got my Ravelry invite! Please come find me if you're already on (I'm Lanafactrix there as well). I'm such a noob to the site--I don't hardly know what to do with it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Various and sundry dilemmas

Several things are preventing me from posting properly as I want to do.

First, I got a new camera for my birthday. This means that I no longer have to use K's, buuuuut--it also means that I have to figure out how to work it. I haven't had the time or the patience to play as I ought. I plan to really suss it out this weekend.

Second, even if I'd figured out the camera, the light plain sucks lately. I live in a third-floor apartment, so I can't really take outdoor photos. (Well, I guess I could, but I might alarm the neighbors.) The best light in the apartment is in the mornings, but I usually have class, and today, when I don't, it's foggy (of course).

Third, the project I've finished--yes, I finished something!--is a gift, and I don't want to put up pictures too far in advance of its receipt.

Thus, for today you'll have to use your imagination. I'm winding the Diana yarn, and I grow more enamored the more I play with it. I have a pattern in mind that I can't WAIT to cast on. But that will have to wait for more time as well . . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Busy busy

These have been a busy few weeks for me, with school and K and everything, so things have been slow on the knitting front. (Not to mention that my current projects are redefining "eternity" stitch by stitch.)

But something exciting DID happen yesterday--in my mailbox was a package from Posh Yarn. My birthday yarn had arrived! And boy oh boy is it goooooorgeous. It's currently sitting on the chair next to my computer so I can fondle it whenever I please.*

In consequence of the eternal projects and the new yarn's advent, I've got a wicked case of startitis. I want very badly to begin this scarf in some yarn I bought last summer . . . I want to start a new pair of socks in Regia Silk** . . . I want to cast on something with my Posh Yarn--I don't really care what!*** But my sensible side tells me that I have little time to knit as it is, and not nearly enough to devote myself properly to a new project. Maybe if I am very, very diligent at the lecture this week I can finish K's scarf. And I may or may not have begun winding up the Diana, just to see what it's like . . .

Also, if you're from the US and you haven't already, vote today!

*What, you don't do that? Why are you backing away like that?

**I don't care if the dye lots don't match, damnit, it was on sale.

***Although I have been having fun looking for more challenging lace to knit. Details forthcoming.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stuff I knit once

Introducing an irregular feature: Stuff I Knit Once. I've knit quite a lot of things, and although most of the lot is in other hands, I've kept a fair amount. Either because I liked it or because it wasn't really suited to give away . . .

Here, then, is a little scarf I knit I think December 2007. It's a gorgeous chenille touch-me yarn, just about worsted weight. (I've of course lost all information about the yarn, which I'm sure I bought on clearance.) I tried a funny sort of dropped-stitch pattern of my own devising, which, as you can see, didn't really work. I was aiming for an effect like so, where it's stretchy and a bit airy:

Overall, however, it ended up more like a loopy-ass mess.

I think with a little revision this pattern could work (if I remembered what I did), and it sure is comfy. I've never actually worn the scarf in public, mostly because I'd have to find a proper pin. And accessorizing is not really my forte.*

*Case in point: I demanded yesterday that K tell me what color my earrings were, because I'd thought I was putting in blue ones and they turned out to be pink. I was very confused.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lace: the world's biggest time-suck.

So knitting a lace shawl is very seductive. You cast on three stitches, and before you know it, you've knit like FORTY ROWS, and you're thinking "damn, I'm good." And then you realize. That you've been adding like . . . 20 stitches per pattern repeat. And that you've been knitting for days and days and you haven't even finished a repeat. And the piece is, at a generous estimate, about 8" long, and the finished length in the pattern is 28".

And there's an edging.

We won't even talk about the purl rows.

So now you know how I'm spending my time lately . . .

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boring knitting is boring

As a grad student, I attend a lot of lectures. In order to keep myself amused, I frequently bring knitting along. It has to be specific knitting, though--it can't be anything involving charts, because I have to look at the speaker. It can't be a complex pattern, it can't be anything with increases or decreases, and, if possible, it shouldn't have any purling. (That last is just because I don't like purling, especially in the round.) Finally, it has to be portable, easily put down and picked up, and small enough to shove in my backpack and carry around all day on campus. Tall order, no?

I've mentioned K's love of gray, gray, and more gray. This love is matched by a disdain for fancy things like cables. This makes my current K-project an excellent candidate for lecture knitting. Behold, the scarf of a thousand stockinette stitches.

Yes, despite the fact that I'm working it on circulars in the round, it's a scarf. This is a great method for ensuring a really warm, thick scarf, assuming you have enough yarn. I got the idea from my friend Perdita, who knit herself a Gryffindor scarf this way. It permits you to have a striped scarf without worrying about a right or wrong side (if that sort of thing bothers you). I've never really figured out a good way to do the scarf ends, though. Next time, instead of a rib I think I'll use moss stitch.


The wool is Berroco's Pure Merino on size 5/3.75mm DPNs (color 8634 "Devenir Gris"). Since it's worsted-weight, knit on 5s it becomes very dense. It's a joy to work with, although the twist tends to unravel at loose ends. My only complaint would be about the color repeat. I've spent way too much time trying to match shades well enough to join a new ball. In the process of winding a new skein, I came across a join where the light grey had been joined to the near-black. Um . . . bitch, please. I estimate I'll end up using 3-4 skeins, depending on how long K wants his scarf to be, and I don't look forward to further joins.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yarn yarn yarn yarn yarn

In this post, I mentioned that I was having trouble resisting the lure of laceweight from Posh Yarn. Well, I, uh . . . couldn't resist. Yesterday, as a birthday present to myself, I bought me some yarn.

First, I bought a skein of Miranda (70% baby alpaca/20% silk/10% cashmere). This colorway is called "Mimosa," which makes me thirsty, but it's definitely a perfect description. Second was a skein of Diana (70% merino/30% silk) in "Mischief." Both are very fine laceweights--now I need patterns to go with them. (And with laceweight you get a lot of yarn for your money--1200 yards a skein!) I'm really grooving on the lace thing and ready to cut my teeth on something more complex than my current project. Neither of these are really in "my" colors--I probably wouldn't normally wear either--so they're probably destined to make gifts. On the other hand, so pretty! Maybe I'd look good in the purple . . . I can't wait for them to get here.

I also have to say, the pricing at Posh is very reasonable. Even with an unfavorable exchange rate and international shipping, I didn't pay any more than I'd pay in the States for good yarn. (Also, if you go back and order more before anything's been packed, there's an option to note that and not pay for further shipping.) I've never ordered from them before, but if the yarn is as nice as the people and the prices, I'll for sure be ordering again.

Photos credit Posh Yarn--thanks, Dee!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The infamous Pi Socks

I got a brain bug this summer that I would knit socks with stripes. The stripes wouldn't fall in just any pattern, though, oh no. They would be pi.

Yes, I am a gigantic nerd.

So I cast on, adapting a pattern from Knitting Vintage Socks, and went to town. At some point, I decided the socks needed something on the heel, so I designed a "pi chart" and intarsia'd that sucker. (Yes, I also love terrible puns. Remember the "socks in great numbers" crack?)

Without further ado, then, I give you: a Pi Sock.

First and foremost, yes, there's only one. The other languishes with about three rows complete. That's because the first one pretty much sucks. The pattern was completely wrong for what I was trying to do. I'm going to have to start from scratch and design my own when I knit them again. Part of the reason the pattern was wrong for the sock (other than that I think Nancy Bush is perhaps on crack)* is that I was knitting with Fortissima Cotton I bought ~forever~ ago. (As in, they've since changed it to a completely different fiber composition--the stuff I used is 75% cotton, 25% polyamide--and they don't make these colors anymore.) I'm not as anti-cotton as a lot of folks, but it is a bitch to work with, and I think what I'm trying to do demands the elasticity of wool. There were also a few elements that I didn't have worked out before going ahead and knitting, and the result is a kinda crappy sock. So I don't really feel like knitting an identically crappy sock.** I'll get around to it eventually. But in the meantime, enjoy!

*Nancy Bush is a goddess among knitters, and I'm pretty sure the fault is mine. Nevertheless, this book has given me, shall we say, mixed results.


**Yes, I could use a different pattern for the second sock, or frog the first and do it all over. The thought of wearing socks made of two different patterns makes me twitch--because heck yes I'm wearing these, nobody else would!--and I'm too lazy for option two.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lace and its discontents


For the first time ever in my life, I'm knitting lace.

It's supposed to look like crap before you block it, right? Right??

I'm using Schaefer Yarn's Anne, and I am deeply unsure. It's fingering weight and really intended for socks (hello nylon), but I had it on hand when the inspiration to knit lace struck. I was also unsure that the colorway would be anything anyone would want to wear on their feet. And now that I'm knitting it, I'm even more unsure about that. This is a problem I have with some variegated yarn--it looks lovely in the skein when the colors are in their separate spaces and the transitions are smooth, but kind of odd when you knit it up. Oh well, I'll persevere.

But I could use some reassurance about the "looking like crap" thing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Socks, deconstructed

I thought Ily's comment about sock thickness on my last post deserved further discussion. She remarked: "I've always been a little confused by knitted socks, since all the ones I've seen are too thick to fit inside shoes. Did you manage to solve that problem?"

The answer is: yes, through the magic of weight and gauge. There are, roughly, about seven "weights" of yarn, ranging from laceweight to super bulky.* Many novelty socks are knit in bulky or worsted-weight yarn, making them unsuitable for wear with regular shoes. (Socks knit with worsted are often called "boot socks.") The trick is getting special sock yarn, which is very, very small indeed. Sock yarn is the next step up from laceweight, a category generally called "fingering weight." Proper sock yarn is distinguished from regular old fingering weight by its blend of fibers. Compare the labels.

The Baby Ull is 100% wool, the Fortissima is 75% cotton, 25% polyamide. Even the most diehard, natural-fiber freak has to use a yarn specifically made for socks (or reinforce the chosen yarn with special thread)--otherwise the sock won't hold its shape or stand up to wear and washing. So proper sock yarn is a) fingering-weight and b) made of the right stuff. You can see that the Tofutsies I used for the Waving Lace socks is very skinny indeed. Here it's superimposed next to a random worsted-weight yarn.

The other aspect of making socks to fit is gauge. If you knit very light yarn on comparatively large needles, you get a loose, open fabric: the principle behind knitting lace. (More on this later.) In order to get a fabric that will work for socks, you have to knit sock yarn on the proper needles, which are very. very. small. The Waving Lace socks were knit on size 1/2.25 mm needles; most socks are knit on 0/2.00 mm, 1, or 2/2.75 mm needles. Here's a size 0 needle next to a dime, for comparison.

When sock yarn is knit on small needles, the result is a thin, dense fabric that holds its shape after washing. Yay, socks! Generally, these socks will be too thick for wear with women's dress shoes but just fine for wear with sneakers or everyday shoes. Fun fact: back when handmade socks were still the norm, many were knit on teeny-tiny needles, the equivalent of today's sizes 000/1.5 mm or 0000/1.25 mm.** And you thought socks were too fiddly to knit nowadays.

So, long story short, yes, these socks are thin enough to wear with regular shoes, and so are most that I make these days. My initial sock experiments were thicker (and quicker)--SQ's socks, for example, were made of a bulky chenille that couldn't be worn with shoes. (Or did you ever try, SQ? Inquiring minds want to know!)

*I may have to restrain myself physically from ordering when Posh Yarns restocks next week. Must . . . resist . . . laceweight . . .

**I got this from Knitting Vintage Socks, by Nancy Bush. If you mention it at a cocktail party and the next guy over happens to be an expert on antique knits or needle manufacture or something, tell him that that's what SHE says.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Selfishness


I've made more socks than anything else in my knitting career, but, weirdly, the Waving Lace socks are the first I've ever kept for myself. (They're not the first pair I ever knit for myself, though. I made a pair once that were intended for my own use, but I wasn't feeling it and gave them to my mother. Several years later, I was visiting my parents and, suffering a temporary sock shortage, received them on loan. After wearing them all day, I thought "damn, giving these away was dumb." Whoops.)

I like knitting socks for other people--my friend Superquail was the recipient of my first pair, as detailed in my profile--but I decided at some point this summer to knit socks for ME. I have another pair on the needles which will definitely remain in my possession. (Mostly because they kinda suck. More on this later.) And I am plotting further self-sockage.

I'd knit more socks for K, but his tastes are decidedly conservative, and he wouldn't really dig socks knit from, say, stripey Regia. So if I want to knit him something, I have to go out and buy a nice dark gray. In the interest of allowing my credit card to cool, therefore, for the moment I'm knitting from the stash. That's it, yeah, I'm just being thrifty.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Socks!

Socks are more or less my favorite things ever to knit for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, I get bored knitting large amounts of anything, and socks are small enough to keep me entertained throughout the process. I'm unusual in that I don't tend to leave knitting unfinished--I'm more likely to finish something and then just not start another project, so staying amused is important. I actually have four projects on the needles at the moment, which I think is more than I've ever had before.

Anyway, I've been knitting socks in great numbers lately. (Haha! Great numbers! I crack me up. I'll, uh, explain later.) It started with a pair for my boyfriend, K--I'll get pictures at some point. But it continued to these for myself.

They're the Waving Lace Socks from Favorite Socks, knit in SWTC's Tofutsies. First, the pattern. I love it--clearly-written, error-free, and would be easy to alter if necessary. I knit these exactly as written (size 1/2.25m needles). I tend to knit somewhat loosely, but I also have ginormous feet, so it usually works out. In this case, the lace stretches and is very forgiving.

As far as the yarn, I was a bit skeptical at first. What care I for chitin? (Seriously, wtf is chitin? And why should I care if it's antibacterial? It's not as if my feet are in danger of being ravaged by gangs of roving bacteria. But I digress.) Despite my skepticism, however, this is a really nice yarn to work with. It feels a little like an acryllic to the touch--probably the chitin/soysilk--but it's much softer and nicer in practice. It's a little bit splitty, but once I got used to working with it I didn't find it awkward. Long story short: 10/10, would knit again. And a good thing, too, because I have two more skeins in the stash.

(Please excuse my terrible photography. Socks are difficult to get pictures of anyway, and my camera skills are . . . shall we say, sub-par.)

A new venture

So I like to knit. And lately I've been knitting rather a lot. Pictures of said knitting have been requested often enough that I finally thought, "damnit, I'll just start a blog for this."

I never said I was a logical person.

Anyway, here you have it--I figure I'll post about things I've finished and things in progress and generally ramble on about knitting-related stuff to my heart's content. Who knows, maybe even people will read it.

Monday, October 6, 2008