Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Community vest

Back in January Binnie sent me from Halifax the most beautiful vest, knit with a Fleece Artist blend of silk and other things, that in the end didn't fit her. She hoped it would fit me and boy did I ever share that sentiment, but no. The armholes were just too snug for us both. She suggested I rip it out and reuse the yarn for something else, but things were horribly sideways here at the time so I set it aside to ponder.

Yesterday, I took it out again and looked at it. I feared she was right and that I would have to frog all her beautiful stitches, and I started by ripping the seams. But guess what? The seams are in the shoulders! She knit sideways from front to front. Lying flat, it looks like this:

Henry and I decided that it would take very little fuss to pick up stitches at the top of the shoulder for a longer armhole. And from there, simplicity to pick up stitches along the neck for a collar so that part isn't weird. Right now it's a bolero length, but using the same picking-up method I could easy work down and make a longer vest.

Simple if you have yarn that goes with all of those fabulous colours. I looked, and looked again, and bit my lip, wondering whether the superwash wool I had Helena at Midnight Sheep in Wales custom dye for me (when I had a water-themed design in mind that ended up not working) would go.

Think it goes?

There probably isn't enough to do all of what I want. But maybe I can do just enough to put Helena and Binnie and me in one place. And I think that would be pretty cool!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Knitting dangerously

I spent much of the weekend problem-solving another tote bag and cutting out giant knit-friendly pockets to stitch onto some new dresses (more on that another day because I'm sure I'm not the only compulsive knitter who wants them), but if I had to leave the sewing machine I picked up Man Socks to take along. I knit at a party, in a driveway while chatting, in the car, and whenever my back was too sore to hunch any longer.

Newflash: two days of even partial attention, if consistent, really makes a difference:

I didn't think to get the other sock out of the bag but it looks much the same, with just three rows of heel flap done.

There was a lot of pausing and weighing and measuring and breath-holding before I decided to do the heel in the same yarn and not use the contrasting denim. And it may turn out to be a horrible mistake requiring ripping back, a decoratively striped toe, or simply gifting to a different Man with smaller feet.

But these socks are coming out gorgeously enough that this particular Man might wear them for smart casual, in which case he's sure to prefer a subtle, semi-visible heel to a sporty one peeping over the top of his smart shoes. Anyway I'm going to knit fast to see how it comes out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kathleen Taylor is brilliant

Last night I finally got around to booking the first of this summer's mini-holidays and realized:

I have to pack knitting.

Or rather, I have to pack enough knitting and not too much. I realize this is a problem faced by a ton of knitters, especially the ones who knit because they travel all the time or travel because they teach knitting, but I'm so used to planning for a day's worth of knitting, it's hard to imagine how much more I'll need for three or four days. Especially since a lot of what I wanted to work on in July is my own designs, for which I will need to be at home with all my books and needles and personally-brewed tea.

Of course I can always pack socks, which brings me back to the latest proof of Kathleen Taylor being brilliant. Yesterday she suggested that I do the Man Socks with a contrasting heel and toe to be sure of having enough yarn. Of course my first thought on reading this was:

But if I use up that much of the other skein that matches Man Socks so perfectly, there definitely won't be enough for the Bob Socks!

followed swiftly by

Plus, all my other contrast-potential yarns are straight merino, not the merino/nylon blend I particularly wanted for the heels and toes!

That's where the light dawned, folks: I can use the perfectly matchy contrast yarn for Man Socks, and for Bob Socks, simply by choosing one of my many straight merino yarns for the leg and foot of the Bob Socks.

Ha! And let's not forget the fabulous Star Toe instructions, either. Yep, Kathi's brilliant, and she's going to make my travel packing a whole lot easier.

(do you think a guy would wear bright red socks with denim heels and toes to important business meetings? because if not, I could maybe justify buying more sock yarn on one of the summer vacations, heh heh heh.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Progress to report

I haven't quite caught up to the place where I last frogged Mystery Sock, but after taking Tuesday off to sew I'm now about half a repeat away from where I was and the pattern works, this time. Whew!

Of course, the whole time I was knitting it (while watching The Princess Bride, insert happy sigh here) I was conscious I should be working on Man Sock, but guilt is such an integral part of my upbringing knitting wouldn't be me if it didn't have any of that in it.

That said I can't help noticing that lately I've been making meals and even thinking about cleaning up the heaps of paper on the kitchen counter edges and my desk and so on, which must mean I am knitting a little less than usual overall - and with the Baby Surprise Jacket to start again and the Mystery KAL design to finish you'd think I'd feel a lot more guilt than I do. But I don't.

Do you think it's possible that knitting not only relaxes stress and other negative feelings in the moment, but - cumulatively - reduces one's capacity to experience stress and negativity?

H'mmm. Perhaps I need to buy more yarn for investigation purposes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fear and trepidation, with bonus earthquake

I really only have one portable project right now, which is the Man Socks, and in addition to constant second-guessing of self regarding the wisdom of choosing 2x2 rib (mind-bogglingly slow and dull to knit yet ideal for gifting to a Man whose foot and ankle circumferences are unknown) I regard the Man Socks with


Yes. Because I don't know how long I can go on this ankle before I have to turn the heel in order to have enough yarn for the toes.

I had been thinking I could use up about half the weight of the cake - so far I'm only about 15 grams in to I think 58 grams. But does that view hold heel-turning and the yardage therein in sufficient high regard? Gah.

Worst case: I can plunder the matching denim blue yarn I got at the same time and was intending to use for a pair of socks for Bob for his August birthday (clearly, Not Gonna Happen). Might look a little weird though, just having it at the toe and nowhere else.

And I'd still like to try to knit socks for Bob.

Which means I really need to finish Man Socks soon. Maybe they should be my July travel knitting?

Or maybe I should stop sewing tote bags?


While I was taking pictures of Man Sock for this post there was a 5-point-something earthquake that shook the nearby building of the friend who called to ask how strong it was here and then had to explain to me that there was a 5-point something earthquake just minutes before. Yep, I didn't even notice it happening. I am way too focussed on knitting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Knitting and frogging

I hadn't actually heard the term 'frogging' until I started knitting again last year and I must say, I still prefer 'ripping', which not only captures the sound of crunchy wool stitches being torn from existence but also the way it feels to tear said stitches.

That said, I spent most of yesterday either knitting or frogging, in equal amounts.

Probably I should have done more swatching before I started off on those socks I want so very much to be pretty, yes?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spring, in time for summer

Ha! with just 26 hours to go, I finished the Spring Things before Spring was officially over:

Of course, making them ankle socks helped a lot, as did sitting for an eye-straining 8 or so hours of knitting on Saturday.

I decided to try out the spiral toe that Kathleen Taylor uses to such effect and not only was it way easier to do than the wedge toe with grafting option, it's way more comfortable on my foot. Yay!

Okay, I gotta 'fess up. I wasn't motivated by today being the first day of Summer. I had to finish these socks because I could not wait to get the variegated yarn onto some needles, and I already had all my others tied up. (sorry, Misha - I'm obsessed!) I'm trying something different with this yarn, a sort of Frankensock of all my favourite sock elements so far (yes, after just half a dozen socks I've started to get picky).

It's taking a lot of experimentation and ripping and rewriting, but so far I like what I'm getting, and I pretty much can't even think about anything else, which doesn't bode well for the next mystery KAL, or supper, come to that...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Round and round

Got a new installment of Vesper sock club yarn in the mail today:

Julia's added some variegated yarn to the shop!

I haven't had great luck pairing variegated yarns with the right sort of pattern so far, but I adore all the colours in this skein, so I couldn't resist getting it right onto the swift:

The colour repeats are very short and unsubtle:

That could make for some wild socks I can just work in stocking stitch... or maybe I should hold out for a really, really simple shawl/scarf thing that patterns itself. I left it in one cake while I decide, rather than dividing it into two for socks. But I think I might lean toward the longest socks I can manage, worked toe-up with an afterthought heel. I've been wanting to try that for a while and a yarn like this would be perfect for the job, don't you think?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Exhibit A: the towel

Last night I did the unthinkable and decided not to submit something to a call for submissions.

I love a deadline, and calls for submissions are like catnip (or do I mean Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream?) which must mean that I really am busy and not just imagining it. Also: very sleepy. I definitely have to get in the car to buy groceries today but, um... naptime? Hello?

Of course, while retrenching I thought of another cool design idea for a possibly felted household item that I am dying to try out.

Maybe I could just pull that towel back the slightest bit from where I threw it in?

(but not this week. Not this week!!!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fashion tips for knitters

Lately I've been branching out into clothes with pockets. And I don't mean the kind you can fit your keys into or maybe your phone - I mean expanding world-traveler type pouches. Take for example my new kinda crazy summer jumper dress thing with puffy skirt, worn yesterday to a party specifically because of this quality:

See? It's puffy like this all the time, which means you can pack a ton of stuff in those pockets without anybody noticing, really. You know, like knitting.

(and yes, somebody did start laughing when she spotted where the yarn for my sock was coming from.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Other people's stuff

One thing I notice about knitting is, on the one hand, how exciting it is to see a great pattern we just can't wait to make, and on the other, how exciting it is (or nerve-wracking, but in any case compelling) to tweak said pattern for our own needs.

It might be yarn choice, it might be the addition of a few short rows or some length or toggles or a tie instead of buttons - the thing is, it's fun to put your own mark on an idea. It makes knitting a collective experience no matter how many or few people see you working.

Designing from scratch though - that one has me perplexed. It's a lot of work, writing down what you did and reproducing that exactly, tweaking the idea so it's the most fun possible to knit and maybe even has the most potential for other knitters' personal reworkings, and maybe most of all: just coming up with an idea that is somehow different.

(this last is a challenge in writing as well, so you'd think I'd be immune to it, but - no.)

Anyway if I was a sensible girl I would stick with knitting other people's stuff and maybe tweaking it a little, or maybe not... but it would seem I am not, because all I want to do today is fuss more with the next mystery KAL design and maybe another mystery submission.

Even though I should really write, or at least clear off the kitchen counter.

H'mmmm. Ice cream maybe, while I decide?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Damsels in spring

The other day I tried on the farthest along of the Spring Things and realized it won't fit very far up my leg, which must be the result either of the calf-creation exercises my trainer has recently introduced or of my going down a needle size this time, because Spring Forward uses way more stitches than I usually cast on for a sock.

Fortunately, this discovery coincided with my acceptance of the fact that I feel more in control of my driving when I'm wearing closed shoes, and that pretty much means socks, and at this time of year, that definitely means ankle socks.

So I just did one and a half repeats of the chart and got down to work with the heel flaps (some of which I knit while walking places - is there anything nicer in knitting than being able to walk while doing it?)

I have no idea how I managed to throw off the stripes so completely down the back of the heel, unless I accidentally did a few more rounds on one sock - something I'm sure not to discover until I get down to the toes. But I am really enjoying this Damsel colourway from one of the more recent Knitterly Things' sock clubs. Can't wait to see how weird-yet-matchy they look with my new grey dress!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spring voyage

With total disregard for more urgent projects I've been working away at my Spring Things, and made particular progress on one of the Things while watching Now, Voyager last night:

I've never seen that film and I must say I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, having heard it's a tear-jerker. But my goodness. Not to do any sort of spoiling but I had to laugh at the last of several installments of Boy putting two cigarettes in his mouth so as to light one for Girl at the same time as his own.

And I'm laughing again now that I've read the last paragraph of the Production notes at the bottom of the Wikipedia link for the movie, above - to think of that becoming a big trademark move people argued over credit for! To me at least, Boy looks anything but droolable with two huge white cigs hanging out of his mouth, and ditto Girl, eagerly taking one of them in lieu of an actual smooch. Saliva by proxy.

I'm pleased with the way the Things are coming out though - super easy stitch, big impact results. And also with the discovery that my tiny happy bark cloth zip purse is just the right size for one of two socks in progress. Lately I've needed some knitting to tag along with me places and it's great to have a really stripped-down package to tuck into an already-crowded bag.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Look what I got

It's always super nice to see Tom, who drives the postal delivery van on my street and brings me the things I ordered online (which happens a lot, because actually going out looking for stuff would take up all my knitting time.)

But yesterday was something special. He brought the second of the three presents I bought myself for passing my driver's license:

la la la la laaaaaa

Not ridiculously overpriced, considering what book it is

Not a former library copy - I can't imagine many libraries are withdrawing this from circulation voluntarily

Not stained or torn on the interior where it matters


Not tiny enough to fit into the gaps that remain on my bookshelf. I think I might have to move my dictionary to some less prestigious location.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Swirly Felted Glasses Case - a free pattern

Longtime readers will recall my panic last summer when I ordered a very special birthday gift for my mother rather too late for it to arrive in time for her very special birthday. Gah!

With two days to go I gave up on a postal miracle and improvised a pattern for a glasses case, hoping I could felt it down to exactly the right size on the first shot.

Now, normally a glasses case is just about the most boring present I can imagine giving anybody, but my mother had everything except reading glasses she wasn't always losing.

Fast forward about nine months and do you know, that glasses case goes with her everywhere? She loves it, and it's so bright her glasses are never lost for long. Not only was it not the most boring present I've ever given, it's turned to be the most practical and appreciated one.

Except for the back pocket I intended for a crochet hook or a pen or something. She's admitted she never actually uses that, but I put it onto this one anyway because I love it, myself. You don't have to knit it if you don't want to.

You also don't have to bother with the needlefelted swirls made from scraps of leftover yarn if you don't have any of the requisite tools. Even without the sock yarn details, this is a nice simple project to get you started with felting.

Download .pdf of Swirly Felted Glasses Case

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not so fast

I snatched pleasantness from the jaws of un yesterday mostly by watching movies
(Bells Are Ringing, You've Got Mail)
(is there a theme in those titles there maybe?)
(and let's not forget that both girl heroes are blond, and both boy heroes tall/dark/handsome)
(not to mention the concealed identities)
(okay, enough theorizing)
and knitting.

But not finishing.

Well, I did finish the glasses case. I just didn't finish getting all the photographs of it set up the way I want for the pattern, and won't get that done today either, probably.

Meanwhile, being both compulsive and procrastinatey, I worked more on the new mystery KAL project and cast on for the new me-socks, HA.

The glasses case gave me the same trouble I had last time - how to decorate it.

Needlefelting is a good way to do that though because if you don't like the design you made

you can pull it right off and redo it. Which I did with this mess, but I think I'll make you wait to see what I ended up with.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Juggling with (knitting) needles

Is there such thing as 'startitis' in knitting? I've heard of 'finishitis", so there must be, and I must be susceptible because I spent the whole weekend leaping from one project to the next.

There was a good bit of Carrot, of course, but not Man Socks, though they did get shifted around on the counter a lot.

I started and mostly finished the next freebie - the glasses case I made for my mum's birthday last year - and wrote up the pattern, and just need to sort out the finishing and photography before I post it later this week. As you can see, the undyed Patons Classic Wool I used for the last round of stitch swatching was still out on my desk when I did it:

Between installments of the freebie, I swatched for the next mystery KAL, wrote up the start of the pattern, and got going.

Don't you hate when you swatch and you're pretty sure you picked the wrong size needles but you don't want to rip out the swatch to try with another set because you'd like to compare the two and you also don't want to cut the yarn because you're not really that fussed about washing the swatch, knowing perfectly well how the yarn reacts when wet and if you don't cut it's just easier to reuse?

I do.

This time though it finally occurred to me to cast on a few inches further into the yarn, making a sort of swatch parade:

Which told me definitely that swatch #2 is the way to go, while leaving a ton still on the ball. That stuff goes a really long way and is insanely springy and squashy soft - I'd forgotten how nice it is, which is a bonus in such a bargain-priced yarn.

I moved the still-frogged Baby Surprise Jacket into a roomier knitting bag, leaving the smaller one free for... something.

That's when - really, if it wasn't the excitement over having a perfect knitting bag suddenly free for it I don't know what came over me - I printed off the three for-me sock patterns in my queue and grabbed the one skein of sock yarn I've wound into two balls and not cast on already, and slipped them
plus needles
plus stitch markers
plus a dpn holder
plus one of the patterns
into the bag.

Of course, getting all the bits into one place isn't the same as casting on. But I expect that to happen today. I love the Man Socks for walking around knitting because that K2 P2 ribbing is so mindless, but for showing off, you just gotta have something with a little zing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Accomplishments - small but welcome

I seem to be still a bit punch-drunk from all the deadlines and stress of the last three months, but I did get a few things done this week.

Like, last night? I knit this little swatch from Knitting Counterpanes:

I thought it would maybe work for the impossibly-slim-yarn project idea still creeping around in my head. Turns out it's not something I can imagine knitting about 100 times, and I really want all the effort in that project to go into wrangling the yarn rather than counting, so when I finished binding off and looked at it I was all, "No. Just NO."

But looking at at it again this morning I'm thinking I might be able to adapt it a little to get the effect I was looking for.

The night before that, I finally finished the 1-hour project I started Monday:

It took me longer because I couldn't really see straight what with the residual exhaustion and so forth, and then misread '2 inches' to be '3 inches' and then didn't measure and got closer to '4 inches' before I caught myself and ripped back.

But cute, yes? It's to hang lip balm off a key chain.

The pattern is compliments of Dawn Riden at Dawning Dreams. It's a fun yet sensible knit (because it gives leftover sock yarn a useful life) and I'm thinking I will make it again, a bit longer and wider, to hang my lipstick from the clip inside my purse. I'm always losing that in the depths of some pocket or other.

But first I'm going to work on the sample for a little pattern I meant to post here last fall. It's been too long since I've done a freebie!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Present number one

The first of my three Got My Driving License! presents arrived yesterday:

I know, I know. Who wants to knit a counterpane in this day and age?

One might better ask, who wants a stitch dictionary with ideas extracted from years and years' worth of 19th century magazines?

Answer: me.

But the pictures in this book are also giving me all kinds of great ideas about construction and the portability potential of knitting a zillion satisfyingly challenging but fast-to-finish squares to be sewn together at some later date.

Sorta makes me think I want to knit a counterpane.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blindly following the carrot

I've picked up my carrot cardi again and oh, how I missed it. If only I weren't too bewildered by sleep deprivation to be able to follow basic instructions.

For example:

If you have just read instructions for one side of the fabric that tell you to work to the last 15 stitches and do something, wouldn't you know instinctively that the instructions for the other side that tell you purl until there are 15 stitches on the right needle must translate to "P15", and not purl to the last 15 stitches of the row and do something else there?

Not if you can't tell the difference between left and right, I guess.

Fortunately I was being compulsive about doing both fronts at the same time, and I caught my mistake on the second front when it was just a matter of ripping back two rows on the first to fix it.

Isn't it pretty? The button band is worked with the body.

This pattern is a bit trickier than it looks, with lots of different kinds of shaping that I'm glad to be learning, and that is why I am taking it with me to knit in the coffee shop today. I might even have coffee instead of hot chocolate, just to be sure I'm alert enough to do what I'm told. I don't really understand how all the instructions are going to play out in the finished sweater - I seem to be making a picot edge every 4 rows or so, for example, and I don't know why yet - but I know I'm in good hands with Kim Hargreaves.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Best-laid plans

I guess enthusiasm is tiring - or maybe two weeks of stress and sleeplessness culminating in a near-all nighter to finish mystery project #2 is - because I didn't make it to the sofa after lunch yesterday, or to the nice short project I had waiting for me there.

I fell asleep! And when I woke up I was too groggy to knit. (and I woke up today feeling sick again after nearly kicking the cold I had two weeks ago, which Does Not Bode Well for continuing to push myself all this week. Maybe I should take a real vacation?)

But eventually my eyes rested on my beautiful yet impossibly slim Sea Storm laceweight and I decided to swatch it.

Swatching impossibly slim yarn is quite an experience. I couldn't see not using these 2.0mm needles, but I realize now I have to work with much bigger ones because the cashmere and alpaca will both bloom over time and they will need space for that. By the time I was done this much, too, I had gotten into the rhythm of moving the thread back and forth without fearing I'd drop or break it. So I'm sure I could do fine with bigger needles.

I still have no idea what to do with this yarn, though. It's saying Lace to me - Little Lace Scarf I think - but I haven't found a lace I like for it yet and I think I'll have to improvise. Sometime when I'm not groggy.

What I was very clear about: how much I like the purl side of this swatch.

Does it remind you of chain mail?

I can't help getting ideas about that, for maybe a reversible sort of lace. It means waiting a long time to get started though, because I'm pretty sure a lace pattern with chain mail in it isn't going to come leaping out of my head any time soon.