Thursday, March 30, 2006

Let's Talk About Socks

The course of sock pal knitting has not run smoothly. My first problem was an inability to choose a pattern. As you may recall, the yarn I had chosen (with your help!) was Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Mother Lode. I really wanted to knit a pattern that would show this gorgeous yarn to its best advantage. I considered Jaywalkers, but worried about the fit, because my sock pal's feet are not the same size as mine.

After some intelligence gathering (i.e., anonymous email), I determined that she would prefer a light, pretty, perhaps even lacy pattern. So I turned to Sensational Knitted Socks looking for a lace pattern that incorporated plenty of smooth stockinette areas to show off the variegation. I started a pair of Ribbed Lace, and then because I did not RTFP (sound familiar, Jess?), I did not realize that it was basically an entire sock in K1, P1 rib, with some yarnovers and decreases thrown in every few rounds. The idea of this nearly made blood come out of my eyes. Rip, rip, rip. I also considered the Oriel Lace socks, but after starting them, didn't think I could make the yarn, gauge, stitch pattern and size all work out. Back to the frog pond we go.

Then, I was looking through the new Rebecca magazine, and thought of adapting the lace pattern from the black sweater for the socks. That would have been cool, but sadly, after trying it out, I realized the socks would be too small and bigger needles would have resulted in a floppy fabric. Rip again.

Next stop for pattern inspiration -- the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary. (This is a great book with beautiful stitch patterns, but where are the charts?!) I found a stitch pattern that would fit perfectly with the number of stitches I believed I needed, with my gauge to make the right size. It's an eyelet diamonds pattern, which I changed a little to eliminate an annoying twist that requires not one but two cable needles. I'm knitting happily along and get this far ... when I realize that something is very, very wrong.

That's right, it's nearly five inches wide. Considering that she said her foot is nine inches around, this is not going to work. I mean, I'm no expert, but even I know that positive ease is a Very Bad Idea for Socks. So, including the little gauge swatches I did, I will have frogged this yarn about five or six times now. I'd just cut it out, but her feet are long enough that I don't really have yarn to spare.

Conclusions: I am sticking with this eyelet diamond pattern, because I like it and I think it is light and lacy without being too much. I am going to use the other Lorna's Laces -- the Seaside -- because it matches the pattern better and hasn't been frogged to death. I scaled down the pattern to a smaller number of stitches, but I suppose I could try knitting the same number of stitches on size 0 needles -- these are size 1s. Comments are welcome.

A postscript: Thanks everyone for the nice comments about my Backyard Leaves scarf. If you have feared this pattern, don't! You can do it!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Leaves

Someone recently asked on her blog -- I'm sorry I can't remember who she was -- if her readers ever intentionally did not work on a project, because it was so enjoyable that you don't want to finish it. I sort of felt that way about this scarf. It was, to use a hackneyed phrase, a peak knitting experience.

Pattern: Backyard Leaves by Annie Modesitt, appearing in Scarf Style
Yarn: Cascade 220 wool, 2 hanks, color # 9451
Needles: 5mm (US9) Addi Turbo circulars, 24 inch length
Dimensions: 82 inches long, 5 inches wide, blocked
Modifications: Left out one pattern repeat to make it shorter, could have left out at least one more.
Other thoughts: My favorite project I have ever knit, as if that weren't already clear. This is wonderfully fun and actually not a bad beginner lace project. There are no difficult "k1, yo 4 times into the next st"-type stitches. It is done in easy-to-handle DK or worsted weight. If you can do basic increases and decreases, yarnovers, slip stitches, and read a chart, you can make this scarf successfully.

The slip stitch, double knit edging is genious. One tip: on the wrong side, the first three stitches are as follows: slip st wyif, k1, slip st wyif. When you take the yarn to the back to knit that second st, you need to take the yarn between your needles to create that neat edge. Many of you are probably saying duh, but it took me a few rows to figure it out.

I am becoming a big fan of Cascade 220. It softened up nicely in the blocking process, after a Kookaburra bath. The color is really pretty, a beautiful blue-green with very subtle flecks of yellow. Here's a closeup!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Random Tuesday

A veritable hodgepodge today. I got an awesome package for the KTC Mystery swap from Kim. I posted more details here. It was a fun swap and she really spoiled me. So, thanks again Kim! Hop on over to her blog and say hello! She's had a recent series of posts on Sexy Men. Aspiring Mrs. Clooneys will not be disappointed.

I saw a really fun music meme at Good to Be Girl and Misocrafty. Post the first ten songs to play on your MP3 player when you hit shuffle. I could basically talk about three things forever: knitting, music and movies. It is only because I don't want to bore you people to death that I don't go on and on about music and movies on this blog. So, instead, I posted my results here.

And, now, for some actual knitting content... As I mentioned yesterday, I finished something! (Big Reveal to come tomorrow.) Needless to say, that means I get to start something else. I've been thinking that perhaps a warmup lace project is in order before tackling the Sampler Stole. I am certain that Sir Edmund Hillary climbed a few hills before he ascended to summit of Everest.
So last night, I cast on the Adamas Shawl. The pattern calls for laceweight and size 5 needles; I have this alpaca fingering weight and started with size 8 needles. The needles were too big -- the resulting fabric was way too open for my taste. I'd prefer the stockinette areas to be more "solid." So I'm going to try again with size 5 or 6.

But here's another thing. The pattern calls for the knitter to place about a gazillion stitch markers. Frankly, they were making me insane. You more experienced lace knitters ... is this really necessary?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Week From Hell

Last week started off with a bang at Coldplay, but it went rapidly downhill from there. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, everyone in my house had strep throat. But thanks to the miracle of modern antibiotics, we're all better now. My blogreading and commenting were also victims -- I undoubtedly owe you a visit, a comment or an email. I'm sorry! I am going to try and get caught up this week.

I received my Project Spectrum postcard from Cath -- and it included a very nice pair of sock size stitch markers! Thanks, Cath! I was excited to get my new postcard pal and I'm starting to think orange and yellow.

I have also been planning new projects. With money I received for my birthday, I bought about 12 balls of this, just in time for Red March to be over. This is going to be Audrey from Rowan 35. (Feel free to swoon -- I certainly feel one coming on.) Sunrise Circle? Sampler Stole? I am absolutely going to get to those. Really.

Coming up in the days ahead ... a Sockapaloooza update from the frog pond, an actual finished object, swatching, and more lace.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Almost 100% Knitting Content-Free!

Thanks everyone for the nice birthday wishes. My birthday was Sunday, and it was a nice day.

From this point forward, people who are not Coldplay fans may want to move on in their blogroll. Come back later for more knitting fun!

For those of you are interested, the Coldplay concert was absolutely bloody f#$&ing brilliant! The concert was at the Quicken Loans Arena, fondly known as "The Q". This is the arena in which the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team plays. The opening act was Richard Ashcroft, formerly of The Verve. His set was good -- the high point was his last song, Bittersweet Symphony. We waited about thirty or forty minutes for Coldplay.

From the very first song, the sold-out crowd was insane. When they played Yellow (scroll down to hear a little of the song), ginormous yellow balloons were dropped from the ceiling. They were designed to pop fairly quickly, and when they did, there were huge bursts of gold glitter. It was really cool. They started out playing several more up-tempo, louder songs, like Politik, God Put A Smile on My Face and Speed of Sound. In the middle of the set, they moved to the front of the stage and played a few songs that were quieter -- 'Til Kingdom Come and an amazing cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Then the big show resumed, and they played Clocks and The Scientist and other songs from X & Y. At the end of Clocks, Chris Martin actually ran through the crowd and climbed into the seats, accompanied by security of course. For their encore, they did Swallowed in the Sea, In My Place (my all-time favorite Coldplay song) and, finally, Fix You. Amazing, amazing, is all I can say!

Monday, March 20, 2006

J'ai Deux Amours

Dear Wool Winder and Swift,

How did I ever live without you both? I am actually sort of glad that Mr. A sat on the birthday gift hint of the STR Sock Club until it was too late. So instead of more sock yarn, I asked for and got the two of you.

Each of you is a little marvel of ingenuity, but together! You impressed even my dad and Mr. A, who are rarely moved by anything related to fiber.

Thanks to you, no more tangled messes of, as Chrissy would say, yarn barf. Thanks to you, no more precious knitting time wasted winding balls by hand. Now, in just a few minutes I can have these neat little bundles of beauty.

You have eliminated the second yuckiest job in knitting, next to weaving in ends, and for that I love you so much I want to marry you. Sigh.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Something Red and Silly

Here's a little something red for today.

(It may be St. Patrick's Day, but it's still Red March!)

This is one of my favorite red things. I love red nail polish, and this is the best one ever. You beauty product aficionados and Allure readers probably recognize it. It's OPI "I'm Not Really a Waitress."

Not only is it a rockin' color, but it has a fabulous name. When you wear it, you're not really a suburban mom, or an insurance adjuster, or a kindergarten teacher. You are a Glamour Queen. You are totally ready for your close-up.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Trouble with Squares?!

Lest I start feeling cocky from all the nice comments about my mittens, I've been having trouble with, of all things, plain old squares. My assignment was to make a 8 x 8 square out of something blue. The blue part was no problem, but the 8 inch and square parts proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.

I decided to do a mitered square, and I ended up trying two different methods. Here was my test square... not too bad, but way too small. This is Wool-Ease worsted on size 7 needles. I cast on an even number of stitches, placed a marker in the middle, then decreased one stitch on each side of the marker on alternate rows. You can also cast on an appropriate number of stitches for two sides, plus three stitches. Then you do a double decrease on those three stitches every other round. That method involves a little more counting and attention, though.

Then I thought I'd prefer a square with four miters. So I cast on 8 stitches (4 sides and 4 corners), and worked in the round, increasing 1 stitch on each side of the corner stitches, every other round. I started on one long circular, and then when I had a decent number of stitches, switched to DPNs. (I heard that collective gasp. Yes, I actually used DPNs.)

Well, that worked out pretty well, except that my maths were a little off and it was too big. Also, I had to switch to a circular when the square outgrew my DPNs and it is decidedly rounded on the sides. I decided maybe I should go back to my original style. My next attempt was really pathetic. WTF?! It's not even square! The cast on edges were 8 inches, but the other two were more like 10 inches. Not really sure what happened here. The yarn is Sensations Dolcetto from Jo-Ann (54% wool, 24% nylon, 22% cotton). It's not plied, and it feels as though it should come apart like cotton candy. (It doesn't -- I tried.) I used US 10.5 bamboo ten-inch straights. It is so soft and light. It would make amazing baby items, for a mom who doesn't mind hand washing.

Maybe the third time's a charm? I switched yarns again. This one is made from Jo-Ann's Sensations Tesoro (100% wool). This is a nice yarn, too. It would have nice stitch definition for cables or knit and purl patterns. I used Bryspun US9 10 inch straights. I actually made a little gauge swatch, but when I finished it was only 7.5 inches square. Gah! After taking it out of its bath, I easily could have blocked it to 10 inches. But I smushed the rows back together and pinned it down to measure 8 inches. I am hoping that it will be the right size when it's nice and dry. Keep your fingers crossed. I'm running out of time!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's the First Sign of Spring

The air is getting warmer. The crocuses are poking up through the chilly earth. The swallows are returning to San Juan Capistrano. The buzzards are returning to Hinckley. The Lapland Mittens are drying on the radiator.

That's right, I actually finished them, just in time for sixty-degree weather. Truthfully, I'm not much of a mitten wearer. These were really knit for the experience. But I will wear them, or I'd have stopped after finishing the first one. Last year we had a massive snowstorm in April, so I'm not giving up hope of wearing these in public before November.

Pattern: Mittens from Lapland by Marcia Lewandowski, in Folk Mittens
Yarn: Cascade 220 colors 8892 (teal), 9341 (garnet) and 8010 (natural), one skein of each with a generous amount left over (maybe a third of a skein?)
Needles: Inox 40 inch circular in 3.5 mm size
Modifications: Used Magic Loop method; took out a few rows at the tops of the mittens and thumbs to adjust the length.
Things I Learned: Plaited edging; stranded colorwork.
Other Thoughts: After the first (left) mitten, I was more consistent in my stranding and picking up the dominant color from under the resting yarn. As a consequence, the right mitten looks much nicer, although I think only a knitter would really notice the difference. The pattern does not specify a row gauge, but it probably should. I realized as I neared the top of the first mitten that it would be too long if I knit all the charted rows. So I took a few out, and it fits just right. These actually could have been knit in a few days if I were not such a project polygamist; I spent much less time knitting these than you might think. It was a fun project, though the next time I make similar mittens, I think I may stick with a two-color pattern. My sister who lives in Minnesota could use a pair like these!

Thanks everyone for all the nice comments wishing me better health! It was very cheering. I am feeling a lot better and I'm hoping the whole thing will be resolved soon. After all, it's only Nine Days 'til Coldplay!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Red Things

Monday, March 06, 2006

Checking In

It's been a rare occurrence for me to go an entire week without blogging, so I felt compelled to check in, though I have little knitting news. I am working a bit at a time at my WIPs -- Backyard Leaves, the Mittens from Lapland, Nautilus socks -- and even starting new things. I am working on a mitered square for Christine's brother's afghan and I started another pair of Jaywalkers. They will be a shameful ripoff of Jennifer's, in Knit Picks Sock Garden in Pansy. And I still need to do my Project Spectrum postcard and think red this month!

I have gotten woefully behind on my blogreading and commenting, I am sorry to say. I am trying to catch up and leave comments when I can. If you don't hear from me, know that I am still checking in. I don't like to talk about health issues in general, but the last several days I have been feeling unwell. In the good old days, my malady would have been delicately referred to as "female troubles." I spent a bunch of time in waiting rooms today (Jaywalkers make great waiting companions) and though it doesn't seem serious, I foresee more waiting rooms in the near future. Just one of those times that I am really glad I knit!