Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Knitting Continued

… but apparently blogging did not.

I started a post last week about why I didn’t blog a single word about the election here, but it was fighting me too much and I ran out of steam. I realized my subconscious was probably trying to tell me something and decided to just let it go. There are so many people who write so well about the political system in the United States, I think the world can probably live without my contributions.

I will say this before I return to writing about knitting and other things: elections in this country last too damned long (two years? really? was that necessary?), and they rarely bring out the best in us. While I’m quite pleased with the results, I’m sick unto death of name-calling and mud-slinging and broad sweeping generalizations that came from all sides. There’s got to be a better way.

There, all better.

The black fan lace socks continue to zoom along. The lace pattern is just complicated enough to keep my interest without requiring total silence, which makes them good for knitting in almost every situation.

My husband tends to pout when I take my knitting into another room, but working a lace-weight shawl just doesn’t seem to go to well with watching hockey on TV. There I’ll be, counting plain knits between decreases, and he’s hollering at the players while the announcers are reciting statistics. I can state unequivocally that listening to Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda call a San Jose Sharks game during a heavily patterned row has caused me to have to tink on more than one occasion.

What was I talking about? That’s right, my socks! Soon it will be time to do the toes, but first I have to decide how much longer to make the foot. Too long and the lace won’t open up enough, not long enough and my mother will get herself another pair of socks. I love my mother, really I do, but I want to keep these socks! I suppose I could run a lifeline and knit the toe on one sock to see if it works… how terribly practical of me.

I’ve been thinking of starting a long-term blogging project, a personal alphabet series. I’ve got some good ideas, with some posts half-formed in my head, but I’m having the toughest time coming up with “A”. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When Did That Get Easy?

Since I finished off two pair of socks last week, it was time to cast on a new pair. I know, try to contain your shock…

Presented with the perennial problem of which yarn to knit with, I turned once again to my uber-geek method used here. Download the Ravelry stash as an Excel file, eliminate all the yarn not for socks, and then slap the list into the Random List Generator.

Right then, Lana Grossa Meilenweit Tweed, come on down! Also, since the Birthday Socks were so plain, I picked out a more complicated pattern, Fan Lace from Charlotte Schurch.

Cast on 60 stitches, divide onto four needles, join without twisting, work K1, P1 for 1.5 inches.

That’s when I noticed something. It was easy.

I remember being scared of socks. With all those needles, it seemed like I needed skills in Advanced Porcupine Wrangling. And the teeny tiny yarn, so much thinner than anything I’d worked with. I must have twisted the join on the first pair five times. Then there was the time I finished up a needle, turned the work and pulled out… the wrong needle. I had two empty ones in my right hand, and there were all those stitches just hanging there. Trauma, panic and lost stitches ensued.

I am nothing if not stubborn… contrary… bullheaded… I persevered, and my socks have gotten better. Oh sure, sometimes I end up making them for other people when I thought I was making them for me, but these are things I’m sure have happened to other knitters… right?

But, and this is the thing which surprised me on Saturday, at some point they got easy. Casting on, dividing, joining (without twisting!), those first few fiddly rounds… maybe they’re a bit of a challenge, but they don’t seem hard any more.

My ribbing looks good, I don’t see any ladders between needles, and the lace pattern is coming out well.


Even better if I stretch it a little.


I suppose it’s true… practice really does make perfect.

So tell me, have you had those kinds of moments in your knitting? in the rest of your life? Where something that used to be difficult just happens?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

And Then They Were Done

I really got the bit between my teeth with these Basic Birthday Socks. Once I got the heels figured out, it seemed like they just flew off the needles.

Nearly there...

All that time off of work last week was a big help, I’m sure. I was trying so hard to get them done this weekend… probably too hard. Sunday afternoon I picked up a pitcher of water, and my right wrist twinged at me pretty hard. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor (no carpal tunnel if you don’t mind) I put down my knitting and watched TV.

Just sat.

And watched.

How do they do it, all those people who don’t knit? I was fidgeting within ten minutes, making my husband shoot me odd looks and just in general feeling uncomfortable. I finally gave up and picked up a book, which is guaranteed to make me settle down.

An evening of rest was all that was required, and I was able to finish off one sock on Monday night and the other one Tuesday night.


I’m very happy with them. They fit pretty well, although the next time I make a pair like this I’ll probably use 60 stitches instead of 64. This yarn is sooo soft. The only possible quibble I have is that I like my sock-yarn with a bit of a tighter twist, but really, that’s digging pretty deep to find something to complain about.

Fat Stripe

I’m still in love with the different patterns I got. Good thing I like mis-matched socks, isn’t it?

Skinny Stripe

Project Details
Pattern: K4 P1 until you’ve nearly lost the will to live, short-row heel (finally) and round toe
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential in Jester Multi
Needles: US 1 ½ (2.5 mm)
Time: 23 October 2008 – 7 January 2009

I’m a wee bit embarrassed about how long this next pair has been languishing. All that was left to do was to graft one toe and weave in the ends. And yet there they sat, as if I expected someone to just do it for me. Meanwhile I’ve pitched out three pairs of store-bought socks in the last month.

I called this pair “Will These Fit” in my Ravelry notebook, because I started them after needing to give away two pairs, one too big and the other too small. Maybe I was afraid to finish them because I didn’t want to discover that I’d knit another pair of socks for someone else. Even though once I turned the heels and decreased the gussets, I was trying them on about every ten rows or so…


They do indeed fit, and I’m quite pleased with them as well. I used a trick I picked up when working on Monkey, which involves knitting through the back loops of the picked-up heel flap stitches on the next round. I like the sharp line it creates and I think I’ll keep using it.


Project Details:
Pattern: Slip Stitch Rib by Charlene Schurch
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company TOFUtsies, Colorway 741
Needles: US 1 (2 mm)
Time: 23 July 2008 – 7 January 2009 [oh wow, that’s even longer than I thought…]

There is something to be said about procrastinating about those last few steps… how often do you think I’ll be able to finish two pairs of socks in a single week?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things To Make Me Smile

It’s rather a grey Monday here, with rain and more rain. I’m back at work after a long weekend, when the biggest decisions I had to make were how many batches of cookies to bake, if the foot of my sock was long enough to start the toe and whether I should take a nap now or later. This whole "working for a living" thing really cuts into my sitting around time, and I’m trying hard not to resent it.

To cheer myself up, I went poking through my photos for things to make me smile… and I thought if they made me smile they might make you smile too.


These are tulips along my front porch, taken a couple of springs ago. The bed has been dug out as part of my front-yard redesign, and the bulbs redistributed. It reminds me that spring generally comes after winter, and that I have them to look forward to in a few months.

Speaking of flowers, here are some tiny black violas a couple of days after they’d been planted last spring. The blossoms are about as big as a US quarter.


I’ve been in love with violas and pansies since I was a little girl, and I’ve probably planted thousands of them. Some of them come back the next year and some of them don’t. I hope these come back; they’ve got such pretty faces.

I call this one The Thinker:


This is my husband, contemplating how best to get a week worth of clothes and camping gear into the saddlebags on his Harley. He was headed down to California to see a MotoGP race, hooking up with his father and some friends on the road. If I recall correctly, finding a way to take the hat with him was one of the trickier parts.

This picture makes me smile and tear up at the same time.


It’s one of a pair of Dashing which my dear friend EssJay made for my mother. When I told some of my forum friends that my mother was going through yet another cancer battle, EssJay decided to reach out to her. We talked about color choices (I said pink, of course) and fiber allergies (no wool right next to her skin) and this is what came of it. This picture reminds me that there are some truly compassionate people out there, and that help comes in many forms.

And then there’s this little dude, who I met at the Black Sheep Gathering last June.


If an alpaca can’t bring a smile to your face, I just don’t know what else I can do for you.


My brother, his baby girl, and a hand-knit sweater. Another smile-and-sniffle one. She’s got him wrapped around her chubby little finger, and he couldn’t be happier.

The successfully grafted toes of my first pair of wearable socks.


It must have taken me two hours, and I just don’t think my husband appreciated it as much as I did.

I live in a valley right at the edge of a temperate rain forest. A friend of mine once commented that we have 97 kinds of rain here. Today it’s making me a little bit glum, but the rain and the rivers give me sights like this


This is the Lower South Falls at Silver Falls State Park. You can take a seven mile hike along Silver Creek to see ten waterfalls, and although I’ve walked it many times it never gets old. All the shades of green in the world seem to live along the trail, and the falls are a wonder.

And finally, the thing guaranteed to make any knitter smile… yarn:


Or, more accurately, thread. Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silk Thread in Valkyrie, 2500 glorious yards of it. I’m still searching for the perfect pattern for it, and in the meantime I like to take it out and pet it now and then.

Hey, what do you know? I’m smiling!

Friday, January 2, 2009

We Keep Them Warm

We knitters know how to best express our love for the people in our lives. We cover them in hand knits to keep them warm. It’s certainly one of the best ways I’ve ever found to show my love.

And heaven knows, I do love my mother. She’s been an inspiration to me for as long as I can remember, a cheerleader and butt-kicker extraordinaire, someone I look up to and emulate, as well as someone who will dry my tears and tell me everything is going to be all right... eventually.

And so I knit for her. Quite often, in fact!

My latest expression of knitterly love is a pair of Fiber Trends Felted Clogs, in yarn colors of her choice. These clogs are one of those perennial favorites, everybody seems to have made them. A look at the pattern page on Ravelry shows a staggering 3665 pairs, in all the colors of the rainbow in every kind of feltable yarn on the planet.

The construction is pure inspired genius, utilizing short rows and decreases and great big needles. They knit up quickly and felting them is quite a bit of fun.

Mom picked out the yarn for these herself, so I knew the colors would suit her.



We have a tradition of mismatched footwear in my family, inspired by a series of picture books I was addicted to when I was young. There was a little witch named Dorrie, whose room was a complete disaster area. Her hat was always crooked and her socks never matched. I wore mismatched “Dorrie-socks” for years, tossing the contents of my sock drawer like salad and yanking out the first two socks which came to hand in the morning.

In keeping with tradition, I knit mom’s clogs as mirror images of each other, pink uppers on one and green uppers on the other. Here’s an obligatory picture of the unfelted pair, showing mom’s little feet next to her great big clogs.


They look like clown shoes.


And when I said to her, “Just wave one of ‘em around in the air” she nearly fell over in a heap.


Then into the washer with them, each in a pillow protector bag, with an old pair of jeans for added friction. 20-30 minutes later, the combination of hot water and agitation had performed the magic. They felted down so tight I couldn’t make out the stitches any more, and they fit like... I was going to say gloves, but let’s say they fit like footwear.


She was so happy with them that she broke into song.


This picture makes me grin every time I see it, I can’t help it.

Stay warm, mom. And try to be careful on your hardwood floors!

Project Details:
Pattern: Fiber Trends Felted Clogs (AC-33) by Bev Galeskas
Size: Medium
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted in Seafoam and RPM Pink, approximately 300 yards each
Needles: US 13 (9 mm)
Time: October-December 2008 (I’m blaming chronic distraction for that)

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy 2009. I gave up on resolutions a long time ago, except for the one I try to keep as my mantra: This year I want to smile more and frown less.

From the Comments:
Karen, the yarn for the socks in the last post is Knit Picks Essential in Jester Multi. Very very soft!