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 many "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


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 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