Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mock Cables and Lace

I've made my way to the Mock Cables and Lace socks, which marks the halfway point through the patterns in Sock Knitting Master Class.

At first, I thought I'd skip these socks since I knitted the originals for the book. But then I decided that I wanted to experience the pattern as other readers and knit them again. Besides, I really like these socks and I gave the originals to Julia Boyles, who did the great book design.
The originals were out of String Theory Bluestocking, which is a blend of 80% Blueface Leicester and 20% nylon. I don't have any more of this yarn on hand so I substituted Sanguine Gryphon (which will soon be split into two companies: and Bugga!, which is a blend of 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon that has a round structure similar to Bluestocking.
Instead of working with one long circular needle in the magic-loop method as in the pattern, I chose to work this pair on my Signature double-pointed needles, which make easy work of twisted stitches, decreases, and 1/1 cables. I was also too lazy to use the k1, p1 cable method for casting on and used the Old Norwegian method instead (described on page 39).
The knitting is progressing quickly (probably because I've knitted these socks before) and I'm already at the heel.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Wonderland and New Ball of Yarn

A few days ago, we woke up to an unexpected 14" of snow. For a day, only high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles could traverse our unplowed street. Here's what our back deck looked like:
In respect for the beautiful view out the windows, I spend the day in my favorite chair and knitted on my Diamond Jacket.
I finished the first ball of yarn and made good progress on the second. Unlike many knitters, I do not like to change balls at the ends of rows. The yarn tails make it more difficult for me to sew seams. Instead, I change balls at least a few stitches from the edge. For the Diamond Jacket, the first ball ended close to the center of a row.

To join a new ball, I simply work one (1) stitch with the yarn from each ball held together, then continue with the new ball, leaving tails several inches long from each ball. Ideally, I make this double stitch on what will be a purl stitch when the right side is facing. That way, there's just a small thick area that coincides with a purl bump and is therefore less noticeable. After the piece is complete, I'll weave in the tails diagonally across the wrong side of the fabric. In this case, I'll follow the "ridges" formed by the diamond pattern.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Diamond Jacket: #2

It's been only a few weeks since I started Marion Foal's Diamond Jacket (from Marion's Knitting Collection 1) and I already wonder if I'll ever get it done. At a gauge of 8.5 stitches/inch on size U.S. 1 (2.25 mm) needles, there are a lot of stitches and a lot of rows to knit. So far, I'm only about 7" into the first sleeve. But I do love the soft lightweight fabric produced by the small needles. The marker is to help identify right-side rows (the stitch pattern is reversible).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Knot Socks--A Complete Pair

I finished Nancy Bush's Knot Sock (p.96 of Sock Knitting Master Class) and enjoyed every minute of knitting. The pattern is one of those that is involved enough to keep it from getting boring and simple enough that the chart need only be glanced at a few times during each repeat.
Here they are just after blocking.
Notice anything different about the toes? Once again, I ran out of yarn and had to substitute another yarn at the end. Curse my big feet!
I could have avoided this if I'd paid closer attention to the number of yards in the skein I substituted for the Schaefer Yarn that Nancy used. Schaefer Anne has 560 yards (which is more than enough for even heavily cabled socks) and the yarn I used had just 385 yards. I should know by now that I need at least 400 yards for the longish legs that I like and big feet that I have.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Knot Socks--Nearly Done

I'm making my way down the foot of Nancy Bush's Knot Socks from Sock Knitting Master Class. Recently, I was asked how to make two socks the same length so I thought I'd show you what I do.
As I work my way along the foot, I place a safety-pin type marker in every 20th round of knitting. This way, I only have to count 20 rounds at at time, then I place a final marker on the round before the toe (or heel) begins. Then I know exactly how many rounds to work for the foot of the second sock. I've found that I try to knit at least to the next marker at each sitting, which makes me finish quicker. I do the same thing when knitting the legs.
If the sock has a stitch or texture pattern, as in the Knot Socks, you can simply count the number of pattern repeats in the first sock to make the second sock match. If you do this, be sure to make note of where in the last repeat the toe or heel begins so you can end the second sock at exactly the same place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Gift of Knitting

For the past several years, I've donated a Knitter's Gift Basket to Heifer International as a way to pass on the good fortune that knitting has brought me. Through donations, Heifer distributes livestock, from chicks to water buffalo, and seeds and seedlings to people in need throughout the world. These gifts provide families with the dignity to feed themselves and the means to pay for shelter, clothing, and education.
Especially in times of global hardships and uncertainty, I like to think that through knitting, we can bring a little peace and tranquility to our own worlds.
Won't you help me share the joy?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knot Socks--Making Progress

I'm making good progress on Nancy Bush's Knot Socks (p.96 of Sock Knitting Master Class) and things are going smoothly. I've knitted the leg, heel, and gussets and I have to say that I love the yarn (Three Fates Tethys) and I love the simple rib and cable pattern.
Nancy used the Dutch heel for these socks. It's been a long time since I've done this type of heel and I wonder why. The heel turn is done in such a way that the center heel flap stitches continue uninterrupted (in the heel flap stitch pattern) along the base of the heel. It makes for a well-fitting cushiony and durable heel.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Takes a Genius

Not only was I unable to email images from my iPhone to myself, my Mac mysteriously stopped allowing me to upload images to my blog a couple of days ago. Being the computer-challenged non-geek that I am, I made an appointment at my local Apple store with a "genius." Really, that's what they are called. And for good reason. In less than 15 minutes Brad fixed the settings in my iPhone so I can now show you the picture I took of my son (on the left) when he returned from Spain earlier this week (his travel buddy is on the right):
 And the picture I took of my completed Traveling-Stitch Stockings (pictured on my own feet):
Brad deserves the "genius" moniker in my book, but I wonder if he ever feels a little overwhelmed by the pressure of the title.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Full House

We are now a happy family of five again.
Last night, our oldest son returned from three months in Spain. While there, he hiked 500 miles (!) along the  El Camino de Santiago trail in the Pyrenees, then he spent three weeks each volunteering on organic farms.
I took a photo of him when he checked in at the airport back in September.
I took a photo when he got off the plane last night but I'm unable to post it--I can't seem to figure out how to email myself a photo from my iPhone. You'll have to trust me that despite much longer hair and much, much dirtier clothes, he looks about the same.
I was expecting there to be some adjustment period while we all got used to each other again, but I was not expecting the curve ball he threw my way today. He offered to make dinner! He's in the kitchen right now cooking up some sort of lentil stew thing that he learned to make on one of the organic farms. And he plans to make bread, too! Be still, my heart!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Knot Socks--Getting Started

Last night I started the eighth pair of socks in Sock Knitting Master Class--Nancy Bush's Knot Socks (pabe 96). Nancy used Schaefer Yarn Anne, which is a relaxed three-ply blend of merino, mohair, and nylon. The mohair adds a soft halo to the ribbed cable pattern.
For my version, I'm using Tethys Sock, a springy two-ply yarn from Three Fates Yarns in the colorway called Petrified Forest. This yarn was donated to the teachers at Sock Summit and I've been anxious to give it a try. Normally, I prefer three-ply yarns for socks, but this yarn is fairly tightly twisted and has lots of "spring." It also has 20% nylon, which should help in the durability department.
These socks begin with an interesting Double-Start cast-on (described on page  42) that creates a decorative seeded edge. The cable pattern is a welcome relief after the intense traveling stitch pattern in Meg Swansen's Twisted-Stitch Stockings (page 86). There are only two types of cables, and only one type is worked in any round. This promises to be an easy pattern to memorize.
I get gauge on size 1 (2.25 mm) needles but I cast on and will work the top half of the leg with size 1.5 (2.5 mm) needles to make them fit more comfortably around the wider circumference of my calf muscle.
It's currently 2 degrees outside with a predicted high of 13, and there is a foot of snow on the ground. Conditions are ideal for sock knitting!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Beginnings

One of the highlights of the Knitter's Review Retreat is New Beginnings, when we each commit to a new project, one that hopefully will be completed in the upcoming year. Clara holds a short but solemn  ceremony of commitment, then we cast on and share our stitches and good wishes with the entire group.
For my New Beginning, I plan to knit Diamond, a very fine jacket in British designer Marion Foale's book Knitting Collection 1 (distributed by Unicorn Books). I bought the book and the Marion's own yarn at Tutto, a delightful little yarn shop in historic Santa Fe.
Now, I just might be a little nuts. The gauge on this sweater is 8.5 stitches/inch, which puts it tighter than most of the socks I knit. Given that I plan to add a few inches (two more buttons) to the body length, I figure that this jacket is equivalent to about ten (10) pairs of socks. In order to see some progress, I decided to start with one of the sleeves. The knitting you see above represents about an hour of knitting. At this point, all bets are off on whether I'll finish in time to wear it to the retreat next year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twisted-Rib Stockings--Done!

This is probably the most interesting pair of socks I've ever knitted!
After the top of the foot and the back of the heel are completed, stitches are picked up around the entire circumference for the sole. This entails picking up a lot of stitches along each side of the instep. I placed markers to help me pick up the necessary stitches evenly.

After all of the stitches are picked up, the sole stitches are worked in rounds.
After surprisingly few rounds, some of which involve decreases at the toe and heel, the sole is complete.
The remaining heel and toe stitches are gathered and the others are joined with Kitchener stitch. I hope you're not intimidated by this grafting technique. Once you get started it follows a nice rhythm and is much, much easier than it sounds. Not to mention that it's absolutely necessary for this sock!
Here's a list of what I learned and what I did differently from the instructions in Sock Knitting Master Class:

  • Instead of working with two circular needles, I worked with one 40" circular using the magic-loop technique (described on page 13). I used an Addi Turbo needle, but wish that I had the sharper tips that come on the Addi Lace needles. Twisted stitches are most easily worked with sharp needle points.
  • I used the Old Norwegian cast-on (page 39) to ensure a strong, flexible edge at the top.
  • There is a correction to Row 3 of Chart A: the center two stitches should be worked as a left twist as described in the Stitch Guide.
  • There is also a correction to the set-up round of the Instep. It should read: Set-Up Rnd: (Rnd 4 of Chart A) Ssk, work 11 sts in patt, place last 8 sts just worked (center sts of Chart A) on waste yarn holder to work later for back of heel, work 3 sts in patt, k2tog, work to beg of held heel sts--54 sts rem.
  • I worked one less instep decrease to end with 34 stitches instead of 32, with the hopes that this would make the socks fit my biggish feet better. This left two twisted knit stitches at each end of the needle.
  • I chose not to use Meg's method of knitting (and purling) back-backward as described on page 94. Instead, I worked the old-fashioned and cumbersome way of working back and forth in right-side and wrong-side rows. I was afraid that my tension would suffer if I used Meg's technique. But I have to say, it's no fun working twisted purl stitches!
  • Also to accommodate my biggish feet, I worked the instep about 1/4" longer, working to 4" from the last pattern row of Chart A before beginning the toe.
  • I worked the toe in stockinette stitch instead of continuing the twisted-stitch pattern all the way to the tip.
  • I decreased the toe to 14 stitches instead of 12. 
  • When picking up stitches along the sides of the heel "flap," I picked up through the back loops.
  • When picking up stitches for the sole, I also picked up through back loops. I picked up 34 stitches instead of 29 on each side (because I had worked more rows on the upper foot).
  • I worked the sole for 13 rounds (instead of 11) before the first decrease round to accommodate my wide feet (see note on the top of page 94). 
  • To finish, I cut the yarn leaving a 30" tail, threaded the tail through the 7 heel stitches and pulled tight to gather them, then used the Kitchener stitch to join to 34 stitches on each side, then gathered the remaining 7 toe stitches. 
  • Although the instructions say that two skeins are needed for a pair of socks, I miraculously finished with about 3 yards left of the first skein. 
  • With the extra skein, I think I'll make another pair but adjust the pattern for a "normal" round heel and wedge toe.