Friday, July 30, 2010

Museum socks

I had a great score while I was out being touristy yesterday: a sock exhibit at the shoe museum!

My first thought: how were old socks constructed compared to now? Well, this 17th century possibly Spanish pair is a little weird. It's got a horizontal seam across the sole where the heel starts, and what looks like a double seam up the back on either side of the gold pattern. Maybe those seams allowed the gold parts to be worked flat?

These ones from 19th century Croatia have what looks like an afterthought heel and a conventional toe:

Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems as though they also have a decrease line coming across the top of the foot.

This blue stocking (geddit?) is from mid-18th century England:

I'm thinking this is a cool way to dress up socks to wear with your heels. But would anybody see all that detail under those long dresses, even when you sat down? Talk about luxury. Ditto these, also from England, but late 19th century.

Love those shoes.

Now, these socks are a lot more ordinary - mid 19th century American:

They're constructed a lot more like the style you see today, but they were made on a knitting machine:

Yes! I'd read about the introduction of these time-saving machines but never seen one. Let's take a closer look.

Even with the access to a machine to do all the droney work, though, it's clear that knitters have always loved to customize their projects:

Later of course, socks stopped being such a handmade enterprise and by the time WWII came along, the home front had to be downright utilitarian about them:

I actually own (ed?) a pair of saddle shoes - early 1990s Laura Ashleys - and I wore them just this way. Loved them! But I can see now they are a far cry from the cool stuff those English ladies had.

And now I want to get back to my variegated socks. But not Man Socks. I'm still mad at them!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Travel knitting reconsidered

I think travel knitting needs to be subcategorized into two groups: stuff you have to look at as you work, and stuff you don't. If I can stand up and walk around and read the cards associated with different displays at the museum, that's good travel knitting. If I have to look at most stitches (I'm looking at you, travel scarf) then it's for the car.

Yesterday I was so sure I would get a hat cast on and finished in the 3 hours I had for my museum time, even while checking out 19th century china. But for some reason I'm sure had nothing to do with the giggling ladies among the naked torsos in Greece, I spent 90 minutes casting on and ripping out before gritting my teeth and sitting down near an elevator to get just the right length of tail.

Then I found another comfy chair among the Buddhas and knit for a while and was joined briefly by a young boy (I am guessing 9) who confided in me that

a/ his aunt had taught him to knit a couple of weeks ago, and he made a scarf for his sister and

b/ a boy called Brandon had just kicked him for trying to help another boy whose hat Brandon had taken.

I'm sure these two points were unrelated. Shortly afterward a little girl from the same group joined us and asked about my hat and who it would be for while the little boy and I discussed fear of heights and the secret to flying when suffering from same (his fix: close the window shade.)

Who says I can't multi-multi-task?

Me: because shortly after they went on to Egypt I looked down at my work and realized I would have to rip it all back, right back to the first row. Subsequent knitting got me to here:

but today I think I can knit it and walk and look at display cases in another museum, so I am not yet throwing this project into the I'm Mad At You corner with Man Socks.

Once home and able to work again, I didn't pick up Travel Scarf or Blue, but my spinning. It at least is coming along nicely the first try, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Never enough yarn

Apparently one can never have too much yarn, because I visited Romni Wools yesterday and came home with some:

They were having a 20% off yarn sale, which was great timing as I needed to be able to look at a huge selection of Debbie Bliss and Rowan colours to make my choices.

It's all for hats, of course - I love hats so much! and they are so fast. In fact I'm hoping to knit one of them today, the blue, because it's a design I don't have to pay too much attention to while I wander around looking in display cases. Yep, it's back to the museum today. Honestly it's like a summer course, just reading through all the little information tabs! I have to repeat the program on minerals though. I get a little distracted by all the sparklies and just gawk at the colours.

While I was at Romni I discovered something terrible: they sell spinning supplies. Fortunately, they only have beginner spindles or I would have spent a lot of money. But they do have a lot of bags of various fibers from Ashford and Louet, some dyed, some not, all amazing. And, erm, spinning wheels. Including the one Kathi has and which I would also like.

I'm not going to think about that... I'm going to think instead about how valiant I was not buying up a lot of fiber I probably can't spin anyway because my spindle is too heavy or too small for it. And about how nice it is that just now, while putting away some yarny bits, I came across a braid of Fleece Artist merino I bought about 18 months ago when I expected to thrum some more mittens (ha!) It's dyed in denim and red to match 100g of denim wool. I bet once I've spun it the two of them would make an awesome stripey hat, don't you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Today's travel knitting

This week I'm on the road a lot, so it's all about the travel knitting. Yesterday I tried out another stitch on my handspun hat which left me with a second really good hat pattern to knit with some other yarn. Sigh. Still looking.

On the upside, a security guard at one of the museums I visited was super impressed that I could knit and walk and look at the artifacts all at the same time. I told him it wasn't so much impressive as desperate.

Today: a really mindless super pretty scarf of my own design, which I'll be sharing here once it's done.

Yeah, I know, lace always looks bleh in progress, doesn't it? But I swear this stitch almost has man potential, even. Well, maybe. The random man I asked said he wouldn't wear it, but he's pretty conservative. I still really like this scarf, and even though it's a little more yarn to carry in my bag, it's a guaranteed win. After two days of handspun failures I need that.

And where, do you ask, will I be going today? Well. It should be another museum. But instead, I really think it's going to be a yarn store. Ahem.

After all I do need some different yarn for those two patterns, right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I survived Tour de Fleece 2010


I stayed up very very late on Friday night and spun the remains of the 8 ounces of fiber I started with.

Then Saturday morning I got up and wound all of it, two strands at a time, into balls for plying:

and then I plied it, and soaked it (for a ridiculously long time), and hung it up (without weights because I forgot them and in the end it seems not to have mattered), and while I was waiting for it to be dry enough to wind into functional yarn cakes, I... um... started spinning the next colour.

It's very, very different from the superwash merino I've been working with all this time - BFL, super crimpy, super sticky-to-itselfy, super fuzzy, super muted colours owing to same - but I think I've figured it out now.

Oh, and yes. Of course I got started on the hat I want to make with the yarn I'd already plied and dried:

Shortly after taking this picture, I realized that my Perfect Stitch for Handspun actually is awful for handspun - all the texture is lost on such colourful textured yarn. So today I'm trying something simpler, just like always. You'd think I'd have learned by now that simple is better, wouldn't you?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Very nearly done

Yesterday was supposed to be the hardest spinning day of the Tour de Fleece, and I found time to spin, which was hard. But mostly I drafted out what's left of the fleece I'm working on.

I'll have to do it all again since I could tell from the test bits I did that it's just not going to be slim enough - I'm trying to keep this batch very thin so as to stretch it out into a neckwarmer since it won't be quite enough for a scarf - but I'm a good way there and should be finished before the Tour finishes on Sunday.

My goal for all this was to learn to spin viable yarn, but when that actually happened I switched to the goal of spinning up all this colourway, and it's exciting to think I can pull that off! Mostly because it will end up being a rainy weekend at home.

And if I do finish... I have another braid I can start drafting for next week. Because I really don't think I can stop spinning now that I know how.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Freeeee! and now, to work

Ha! Today I finally mailed off a project proposal that has taken about two weeks to sort out. Technically I should finish typing up my notes before I do anything else, but practically - I need some personal knitting time. Or rather, some spinning time.

Never mind that Tour de Fleece is still on: I am frantic to cast on my handspun project and probably don't have enough yarn spun yet to get through Part One. I have to finish the rest so I can just knit knit knit.

Also tormenting me is the fact that Bob is coming over in about two hours and, if I was done one of the Man Socks, I'd be able to try it on him and see if it really is too short. But remember when I threw them across the car on my way home from vacation? I never picked them back up again (except to bring them into the house to perch in the I'm Mad At You corner.) This is a totally wasted opportunity because I won't see Bob again before his birthday (or even then, really) so if I make him socks for that auspicious event this is my only chance to ensure a perfect fit. Gah.

Yes, spinning. It's my only option, unless you count casting on my BSJ or working more on the customized variegated socks or getting the front left panel of my carrot cardi finished off or something.

Spinning or maybe doing more research on spinning wheels, ahem.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The right stitch

If you were on the edge of the cliff yesterday after hearing that I may have found the perfect stitch for my handspun:

Yes. It is. I am beside myself and have already drafted a pattern to make with it.

La la la!

And now back to our regularly scheduled grocery run. Thank you, driver's license...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Off the wagon

Or do I mean on? Or do I just mean to confess that I have done no spinning whatsoever the past few days?

Not only no spinning, but no drafting, which is almost my most favourite part of the game. It's like petting a cat, albeit without the purr.

Possibly this is not how to wind up roving pre-and post-drafting, but I like the little swirly effect. I also like the visual impact of a large group of same:

That's the pre-drafted stuff up there. Can you see in this picture how much softer and wispier the stuff on the right is, post drafting, or do you have to be there?

Sigh. I was swamped with other things all weekend and again today such that I am far too far beyond exhausted even to look at my spindle.

(This is not strictly true; I did look at it this evening where it rests in a pile of drafted roving and melted a little before continuing to hunt for my glasses, which I keep not being able to find, in part because it's so hard for me to see mostly rimless glasses without corrective eyewear. And to think I could have used those ten minutes to spin, assuming I could stop at ten minutes, which I can't.)

I comfort myself with the fact that I did way more spinning than I had time for during the first two weeks, and rather a lot of spinning on the day I was supposed to rest. Actually I probably won't be able to touch my spindle again until Friday, which pains me because I am a chronic rule-follower.

On the positive side, I think I did find the perfect stitch for my handspun, and in the 3 minutes left before I fall into bed and start dreaming of self-cleaning sheep I'm going to stitch a row or two so I can tell for sure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Handspun in the house

I've spun a lot of fiber since the Tour de Fleece started, and about 9pm last night I realized I had enough to ply some. So naturally I did that, though to be fair the skein-winding part wasn't anything like so much as the time commitment winding anybody else's 100g. There seemed to be a dozen wraps around the swift at best for each piece. Not that I'm eying my spindle and wanting a bigger one (much.)

When I got the skeins all tied up, they went so twisty!

I soaked them in Soak Wash and hung them up to dry overnight with weights as I'd been advised to do, and in the morning - being so scant - they were almost ready to wind. Not quite, though, so I brought them outside for a bit.

And then I wound them.

Aren't they pretty? That's just about 100g of yarn there, and I still have a ton to spin.

When you've got that far it's hard to stop:

I used 4mm needles for this swatch, a treat for me with my loose tension, and I couldn't believe how much energy I can feel in the yarn as I work. I sure hope there's enough for a hat and a small scarf, because that's about all I can think about making with it, and I can hardly wait to get started.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Designing is so much like writing - sometimes you get a rush of inspiration and everything just flows perfectly in the first draft, and most of the time it's hard work and you wonder why you are bothering in the first place.

Last weekend I spent two days struggling with one very tiny accent idea that failed horribly, so I don't know why I was surprised to spend all of yesterday trying (and still failing) to realize another tiny idea. Even on a seven stitch row I found opportunities to improve stitch selection or increase techniques, and that gets pretty wearing after a while. At about 11pm I decided that it was another Fail, and turned out the lights, and headed to bed - where I realized it wanted to be something else entirely.

(this happened to me with my Candy Wrapper Scarflet, which I originally intended to be upside down and thought was a disaster until I realized it was perfect as it was, once looked at from the correct angle. So even failures can have their silver lining.)

Today I spent as much time as possible outside (even had a picnic!) and slaved over the idea again. Two hours took me one third of the way in, and I feel less doleful about the chances of being halfway through by bedtime.

Still, you can imagine under the circumstances how nice it was to get the July installment of the Vesper Sock Club in the mail:

Beautiful yarn, and the playing with of same: that's why I bother in the first place.

(still: time to knit a nice easy hat, don't you think?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Being yarny

It's hot here today - much too hot to be fussing over stitches and increases for a swatch for something that might be interesting, which is why I'm now typing instead of fussing or glancing furtively at my spinning, to which I am now thoroughly addicted.

One thing I have been doing successfully is clearing off my desk so that it is once again possible to see the surface, mostly by moving stuff around so it feels all fresh and not like something I want to mess up. I am now officially employing a journal to keep my notes and ideas in (as opposed to scraps of paper all over) and I'm using Painter's Tape to stick to-do lists on nice clean index cards onto the frame around my window.

Let's see how long this lasts.

The inspiration bowl was part of the move - this is the flowerpot where I throw new (or freshly exciting for whatever reason) yarns I want to gaze at and touch a lot. A closer look told me something I do not want to know on a day filled with knitting and frogging and frowning and no chocolate in the house:

The yarns match. And because one is laceweight, another a merino/nylon blend for socks, and a third a very springy superwash heavy fingering, there is virtually no way I can work them into a single garment. Which means, of course, I am thinking of of almost nothing but how to do so.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three little words




I decided that the reason I never went back to my BSJ I frogged during the long-finished knitalong I organized is that I really don't like the way the yarn I chose was working for the size I wanted to make. So while I was on holiday I picked out some navy Cascade 220 Superwash for the soon-to-be toddler boy I intended the knitalong BSJ for, and then thought


So I added some red and went to the LYS checkout.

And then overnight I thought

double meh

So the next day I went to a different LYS and bought some orangey yellow and I think it will be


Except that now I want to do it in stocking stitch, not garter.

Let's hope I get this one cast on before the summer's done, shall we?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spinning in transit

Over the weekend I did a lot more work on ManSocks and tried them repeatedly on Bob, whose feet are a little shorter than Man's, but just about as wide (they both wear 'wide' shoes, so I'm assuming they are similar) and it was

so depressing.

Because even though I am knitting the largest size in The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, they are a little snug through the foot on Bob. Yes, I can decrease less at the gusset for his socks, but it's too late for Man's unless I rip back (and maybe they'd be okay as they are, because trying on socks with the needles still in does cost a bit of width where the needles pull up at the corners, right?) but then I'd be using up even more yarn, and look what's left as it is:

Yes. Also, I'm getting really sick of knitting ribbing. So partway home from the holiday I threw them across the car and dug out my spinning, even though I'd already put in my Tour de Fleece duty for the day. Yes, Karen did tell me that she's not able to spin in the car because she gets car sick, but that sounded a lot like a dare. Doesn't that sound like a dare?

Well, I didn't get car sick.

But I wouldn't want to spin in a Corvette. You really want some height in your chair when you're spindling, so you can just go and go. When I got home and got all this off the spindle I worked out the frustration by sitting on a table to start filling it again, but yesterday when I was digging out stuff so I can spin on the porch, I dug out this chair for the kitchen:

Because a girl should be able to spin while making supper, don't you think?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spinning lesson

Karen is ahead of me in just about every way you can think of, not least because invariably when I see her doing something I think, Cool! and follow along behind her. Lucky she's such a good influence.

Yesterday I got to spend nearly two hours at her house, watching her spin and learning her tricks and shortcuts and trying them myself. She uses a slipknot to get the fiber onto the spindle at first, which I hadn't thought of, and she showed me an elegant and effective way to get the new yarn onto the spindle I can't describe here, and how to ply on a spindle.

Best of all, she showed me how to draft yarn before spinning it:
Set the spindle aside altogether,
Pull the roving wide along the entire length of strips already made narrow for spinning
Look for areas where the fibers are a bit thicker than elsewhere and pull those ones longer and
Spin without much further thought.

Not only is this process so incredibly peaceful and soothing that I would gladly do it all day, within seconds of employing this technique my results improved about 600%:

When I saw what I was getting I decided that I should ply the ball I made before I left home with maybe a very thin - matching! - alpaca I have a bump of (once I'm experienced enough to try spinning slippery alpaca.) Because this is working out so nicely I should just ply it with more of the same-quality work.

While thinking about the very cool hat I could make with two such yarn weights I got a little distracted... well, probably just overconfident or do I just plain lazy? - and started to get this:

But at least now I know how to fix it. Thanks Karen!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sensory overload

Yesterday I was given an unexpected opportunity to visit Janie H. Knits, a really great knitting store near Perth, which is a really great town.

Being granted 15 minutes to roam free in a really great knitting store it like being told you can eat exactly three potato chips from a bowl. You're almost better off not going in at all - except that it's always better to be in a knitting store than outside it.

Janie H. has everything, and I needed a lot, so I got a little overwhelmed and hardly bought anything, and what I did get, I didn't get a picture of all of. In addition to what's pictured here I bought a second set of River John dpns in a size I probably didn't need but am glad to have more of because I looooove those needles so much.

I wanted more Rowan Felted Tweed for the next hat project, so that's now ready to go as soon as I get back home to my pattern notes. And - wooooo! - I treated myself to a Namaste circular needle case. I've wanted one for a while but they're always sold out when I look for them, so I wasn't going to pass this pink one up.

I also bought a single wood button, not having time to find more that are sort of matchy to its uniqueness.

And in the final seconds, I bought this for future mansocks, thereby resolving the yardage for large-size socks issue:

I realized this was a mistake the moment I got back into the car and compared it to the yarn I am using for the current Man Socks. The new yarn: very fine, way finer than the current yarn. The current yarn: still a little loose even on 2mm needles. Darn my ridiculously relaxed knitting tension! and since I'd spent 45 minutes doing all this instead of 15, I was in no position to ask to be allowed to go back inside.

Fortunately, Karen has the opposite problem with ridiculously loose tension, plus a resident man for whom she frequently knits socks. So I gave the yarn to her good home and she taught me how to solve all my spinning problems, an excellent trade about which I'll tell you more tomorrow, because I have to go right now and hunt up a good pancake house.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Looks a lot like yarn

First up: yes, I am pathetic. Having decided to stick with my pink sandals (red being the other option) I colour coordinated my knitting bags for the trip:

... plus two more that don't clash with pink, containing Man Socks. Yeah, I solved the decision-making problem by choosing three things instead of two (that's the sock design I've been working on for me, up there in the paler bag; I want to show Karen my progress since I'm seeing her on this trip as well.)

And now back to spinning. I did in fact fill the spindle yesterday, rather sloppily I admit:

which meant getting out the ball winder. I tossed the spindle into a (currently empty) plastic juice jug to keep it from flying about the room during the process, and it mostly stayed put. Here's the result:

It amounted to 44g on the scale, which just amazes me. When it's 2-ply it's going to be almost enough to do something with!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

En route

Travel knitting: never has it been so difficult to plan for. You know, I think I might have been on to something back when I only knit one project at a time instead of the 7 (I think, it might be more) that I have on needles right now, and I'm not counting the spinning. I'm really not so good at choosing.

I've been plodding away at the Man Socks. One gusset is done, the other nearly so:

Which means I'm onto the final run of knitting, perfect for a long car trip, if you don't factor in that I have to bring along the skein of denim yarn for the probable toe finish, not to mention my notes on a star toe, and ideally my scale so I know exactly when to switch over to denim but that's a ridiculous amount of stuff to cart along isn't it.

On the upside, I'm seeing Bob on this trip, which means I can get him to try them on and if they are really perfect they could just become Bob Socks and I could start over with new Man Socks on my return. Or on their completion - because they wouldn't really magically get done on a long weekend's worth of travel, would they.

(would they???)

However, I also had a Great Idea for a pattern for summer knitting here at Hugs, and if it works, I want to share it before everybody heads off on the last of their own vacations. So even as I want to finish Man Socks as soon as possible, I want to ignore them. This project is just one skein on one nice compact set of circular needles that won't stab into everything all the time. It's just not quite as mindless as a round of sock that is endless ribbing and stocking stitch, you know?

And then there is the spinning - I have to spin every day I'm away. One of my goals for today is to spin enough to fill the spindle so I can wind this lot into a ball for future plying - thanks guys for the great advice on what next! - and leave it behind:

But of course I have to take more fiber with me. Last night I spent some time pre-drafting so I can spin in the car if necessary, with a minimum of fuss:

It is a problem. I think I will ignore it by making a packing list, hanging up laundry, and getting the first few rows of the Great Idea onto those lovely circulars.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Help! I'm spinning

Spinning is totally addictive, even when you're awful at it.

Here's what I got in about an hour on Saturday:

A lot of it is thread, but I was able to go longer without having to do joins than I remember doing before.

Debbie suggested I try pre-drafting to a heavier weight so as to avoid the thread issue, so I did that for an hour on Sunday:

Obviously I've got a long way to go before I have actual yarn, but I can see I am reaching one less celebratory milestone: having no more space on the spindle.

Seriously, what do I do with this stuff? Should I rewind it onto some sort of spool and keep going or leave the break and spin a few cones together at the joins when I finally run out of fiber, or what?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the Tour (de Fleece)

So, a certain Kentucky farmgirl from the knitting group has talked me into joining the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry, in which people who know how to spin do that for the duration of the Tour de France (that's today, right up to Sunday July 25th.)

What this means is that I have cleared off my spindle and will be using it every day except for the two days of rest that I forget right now (the 12th and the 21st, I think?). There are teams, and I joined the Canadian one. I hope my lack of spinning skills won't impact anybody's chances of winning a button or anything.

To put this in perspective, here is what I managed to spin in the two months I was actively spinning after purchasing my bare-bones spindle in April of 2009:

And here is how much fiber is left of that piece of roving:

There is another hunk of roving to match this one, too, in case I magically run out before the end of the tour. In case you're in love, it's Lively roving, Netherfield colourway (how appropriate, since I'm back on a big Austen jag in my reading), from Twisted Fiber Art. Very, very nice to touch and probably to spin with too, once you stop breaking the fiber every three minutes. I'll let you know for sure if I ever have occasion to find out.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see if I remember how to connect fiber to spindle. Happy 4th of July a day early, my US friends!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

(mis)adventures in heel-turning

I spent quite a lot of time wrestling with Man Sock heels yesterday. Here's how that went.

* * *

La la la la the birds sound so happy and I will be done both heels by suppertime!

Wait, why do I have one stitch left over on this heel cap thingy? I must have started the short rows too soon or missed an ssk or something. H'mmm.

(*frog, reknit, recount, still off. Repeat from * to end of row twice.)


(trek into house to get graph paper and pattern book and work out elaborate adjustment and pick up second sock to work heel cap on.)

La la la la wait. Why is this still wrong?

(more ripping and adjustments, more counting, more grrrr.)

(eyes drooping from near-madness.)

Need... tea....

(more checking of pattern, plus checking of other pattern books with similar instructions, plus excessive tea consumption, plus shift to another knitting place in case it is luckier, plus shifting back to original sock.)

(suddenly, a lightbulb: how about counting the stitches before starting the short rows?)


And how many should I have?


How many on that other sock?


Oh man.

(much forging onward, with nostrils flared.)

Bonus: a brief pause to photograph the beauty of the inside of the sock-gone-wrong where I picked up the heel flap stitches:

Aren't those two vertical lines of stitches on either side just darling?

* * *

I mean really. Two stitches? Two extra stitches in the heel flap aren't worth worrying about, are they. The overall number of stitches is the same. The sock will still fit. The gusset will just be longer in one, right?

I thought so too - until I got both socks back to four needles and saw that when you're working in 2x2 ribbing, two extra stitches really, really show.

So I ripped the offending sock back to the start of the heel flap. And today I am reknitting it... but I'll branch out and do other stuff too, like some sewing of the giant knitting pockets, and some swatching for future patterns, and maybe the mystery socks. Or a nap! It's a statutory holiday so I get to do what I want, ha.

Happy Canada Day, to those who share it with me, and may your fireworks be pretty and your knitting flawless.