Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year of the Sock

It's a bit early to proclaim a 2016 "The Year of" anything.  But it's time.  I feel confident knitting almost anything now.  Even when I make a jillion dumb mistakes, I'm so just confident while I'm making them... unless it's socks.  I've made three pair so far and it felt like I was holding my breath and cringing through the whole process.  It was like riding through traffic with my husband behind the wheel.  I suppose I'm not much of a sock knitter.  I don't know how to tailor them to fit me.  I have no preference as to which end I begin with, and I have no sock recipe.


Like not being a shawl knitter, not being a sock knitter is a temporary state.  I think most of us hold out for a few years, but after trying so many different things, it's the only challenge left.  So you have to do it.  It's also hard to be part of the knitting community and not become intrigued by all of these rabid knitters stalking the Arne and Carlos Design Line and instagramming Rose City Rollers.  It's completely peer pressure.  You guys made me do it.

So, though I'd like to say I'm wanting to be a sock knitter because it's the most practical knit in Texas and everyone wears them, it's really because I like the bright, shiny things I see online.  I want to knit something that self-stripes, besides mittens, and I want to buy pretty yarn in little, affordable batches. Like knitting shawls, socks let me indulge a little.


In anticipation of my future as a sock knitter, I bought this Graynbow colorway and Gym Class (above) from  Gynx Yarns.  I also stocked up on some Felici.  At this point, I probably have enough dedicated sock yarn for 11 pairs of socks.  There's yarn for several self- striping pairs, contrast heels and toes, and a couple of speckled ones, a sock blank, and even a cotton/nylon blend for summer socks.




I can also attest to the portability aspect of socks on magic loop.  Much of this sock was knit working a firework stand fundraiser for the youth of my church.  I could throw it in my pack anytime a customer walked through the door.


So, now that I've decided to make socks my tv  knitting project of choice this year, I needed a nudge to cast on.  That encouragement came from Dani, of the Little Bobbins Knits podcast, with her Christmas Eve Cast On.  I didn't get to cast on that night, but I did dive into my yarn and resurface, eventually, with the Graynbow yarn and unoccupied needles.

When I did finally post my WIP to the thread, I was amazed at how that thread had already exploded with works-in-progress photos.  Dani throws a good party.  In there, among all of the pros who churn out a sock a day, there are a few knitters who are like me: recipe-less.

I'm using the Favorite Socks pattern from Kristin, of Voolenvine.  This pattern is a cuff down version, which is fine with me.  I've done two pairs cuff-down and one toe-up in the past and have had mixed results either way.  The knee socks (one cuff-down, one toe-up) fit great in the foot, but have loose cuffs.  My Hermione's Everyday socks, which were cuff down, were fun to knit, but the first attempt was too big.  The second attempt was better, but still more like a cabin sock than a regular sock...and now they are lost in the black hole of my dresser.

So I'm almost a sock virgin.  I have no personal preferences, no tricks of the trade, nothing to work with.  As far as heels go, I will do the regular, slipstitch heel turn in Kristin's pattern, but afterward I want to try new things and see which I like best.  If I had a dime for every time I hear a knitter say, the mysterious words, "Fish Lips Kiss"...


I'm working on the foot now and have only had one hurdle:  picking a cast on number.  I have a women's size US 8 foot, yet the medium sock cast on, of 64 stitches, was too big for me.  I'm sure I'm not knitting as tightly as the average person, but I cannot get it tighter.  I'm already using bamboo needles and size 1s, I don't want to use 0s.  So I've learned that my foot is narrow enough for a small cast on, while being a medium in length.  The cast on of 56 stitches seems perfect.  I'm using continental knitting as much as possible to keep the knitted fabric nice and tight.

Some of the patterns I'd like to knit this year are Climb, SpringTastic Socks, Flying North,  Susan B. Anderson's How I Make My Socks, Business Casual, Hex Mesh Socks have been in my queue forever, Bickersstraat, Rose City Rollers, some Hiking Socks, Fika, and Flying Geese socks like Dani's.

Any tips, friends?  What patterns would you guys recommend to a sort-of- beginner?  Any favorite heel, cast on methods, etc?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Elder Tree Shawl

This feels like a milestone.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because I've been wanting to knit this design, The Elder Tree Shawl, by Silvia Bo Bilvia (or it's sister pattern The Lonely Tree) for a few years, and I've finally done it.  Maybe it's just because of the pleasure I got from knitting it, or it could be that the timing of using this yarn as our leaves were changing color was just perfect.  I'm so pleased looking at it.




This is a true Fall knit.  The leaf stitch pattern in this gorgeous Autumn colorway from Red Sock Blue Sock Yarn mirrors what's happening outside of my living room window.  It's completely not cool outside.  My afternoon run will be a sweathoggish one, but at least leaves have turned!




I'm really not trying to look off in the distance, brooding for these photos.  I literally could not look up and hold my eyes open without blinking in the filtered sunlight that day.  I must have deleted 100 photos of my "high on knitting" half-closed eyes look.  I probably needed some sleep, too. from teaching Sunday School that morning after being out really late the night before at a concert.


I believe Silvia set this pattern up to be easily modified for any yarn weight and any size shawl you desire.  Thank you, Silvia!  I can see knitting another one, in fingering one day.  This was a pretty easy chart to memorize, too.  So I didn't have to look down as I knit while watching Red Road with my husband.  (I have to pause here to say I'm really disappointed that show was cancelled.  At first I thought it would be another one of those series that's made really well, but has a downer storyline full of irredeemable, selfish characters.  I hate wading through a season of that, expecting something new to be revealed that will flesh them out, only to find they're all even worse than I thought and growing evil, pointy mustaches to prove it.)




 Also from Silvia is Fossil and Bone and Joy.  I love the lace and garter mix of Fossil and Bone.  I think the amount of textured garter, in comparison to the lacework, is the thing that gives it a wonderfully vintage feel.  Joy makes me think of a Brigitte Bardot, especially in a soft, angora yarn. Silvia has such talent and an option for knitters who cannot afford her patterns.  That kind of generosity warms my heart.

The details:  As I mentioned, I used two skeins of Merino Aran from Red Sock Blue Sock in the Autumn colorway.  I'm not sure what needle size I used, because I immediately slipped them into something else, but I'm thinking it was size 5s (I knit loosely.)  Friends, I used almost every single inch of these skeins to get the biggest shawl I could.  I actually cut most of the cast on tail off and spliced it with the end of the last skein to finish my bind off row.  There is exactly 1.5 inches of unused yarn hanging from the shawl.  I'm glad I went for bigger.



Blocking shawls is still an issue for me.  I still haven't gotten blocking wires, though I keep talking about it.  So, I used a couple of layers of towels and just stuck my t-pins through them to get the picot edging to block out.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

I am now the Queen of Fall.  Now to find a big pile of leaves to romp in.  I miss having little kids with me all the time, legitimizing these urges.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Good Night, Day

I received my Good Night, Day book in the mail yesterday!  This is the book I've been diligently test knitting for this Fall.  As a result, I have tons of glorious bulky knits for myself and as gifts, and I learned so much about pattern construction.  I think I've taken clear pattern writing for granted, as a knitter.  I just consume these instructions and never look back at how they're put together.  After doing some tech editing for this book, I have a new level of appreciation for designers.  There is so much more to being concise, consistent, and engaging than I ever recognized.  Even designs that don't require a lot of sizing still require such attention to detail.



You can see there was a little something else tucked into my package.  That super soft, single-ply worsted is already on it's way to becoming a York Bobble Toque this morning.

I started following Tara-Lynn's designs back when she was selling under Yarn Over Movement.  I loved all of that bulky goodness!  At first I only saw her as a source of inspiration, as she mostly knit ready-to-wear items for her shop.  As her style evolved and she broadened her business to include  patterns for her designs, I purchased her knitting booklets.  I loved her use of color and knitted items as statement pieces.

So, I would've bought this book even if I hadn't been involved in testing.  Firstly, because I love bulky knitting, but also because I like supporting independent design whenever I can and this book is gorgeous.  The page design by Anabella, of Field Guided, complimented by photos from Arden Wray, elevate this to a work of art.  The quality of light and color on each page makes me want to pick it up and thumb through it again and again.

Some of my favorite images that Tara has shared already on instagram are the York Bobble Toque, which I'm knitting with that indigo skein, and  a flip-thru of the whole book.

I am still thinking of things I might have done better as a tester, but, ultimately, I'm just so proud to have been a part of this project.  This is one of Tara-Lynn's dreams realized!  What a beautiful thought.

I still haven't posted about my last two knits from this book, which can be seen above.  I knit both Kingston and Innisfil smaller, to fit my daughter.  She just hasn't been around when it's light enough for photos, but you can see bits of them here.  I had to go with lighter weight yarn than the samples, so they are sized smaller, which works for her.  I was also running low on bulky yarn at one point and so put some impromtu colorwork into the Innisfil Tank.  I'll post more later when my model shows up, but don't expect the greatest yarn- I worked with what I had.  The Sylvan turned out to be a striping yarn, which wasn't my first choice. But, these allowed me to test the patterns and gave me a taste for what I can do when I find the right thick and thin yarn.



Monday, December 14, 2015

All in a Row

What better way to put pretty leftovers to use than a Fair Isle hat?  This one is All in a Row by Laura Reinbach.  You may recognize the main color from my Quadri.  It's Voolenvine's Toasty base in Gashlycrumb, combined with leftovers of her Nevermore colorway and Swish Tonal in Thunderhead.  I didn't plan to knit this right now, but when I saw the amount of leftovers I had, I couldn't resist.




When you envision wearing this hat, try not to think of all the mismatched purple and burgundy I'm wearing.  Geez, I was totally not paying attention when I through on a sweater and hat for these photos.  Also, keep in mind that I should press this fair isle for the smoothest finish.  Every time I do that, my fair isle comes out so beautifully.  I just get impatient to wear things and am slow to completely block, press, weave in, etc.


Details:  I used size US1 needles for the ribbing and 4s for the rest of the hat.  The pompom is the aubergine version I mentioned here. Who'd have thought I'd wear a furry, aubergine pompom?



I did use traditional two-handed Fair Isle knitting to make this.  It's nice to refresh that motor skill once in a while.   Typically, Fair Isle ends up tighter than you intended.  I always remind myself to "knit sloppy" so that I actually have a fabric that's even and expands over my body.  I'm relieved this turned out the perfect fit for my head.


This pattern is my first to knit from Holla Knits 2015 Accessories magazine.  I want to knit several things from that collection.  At the moment I'm thinking both pair of mittens.  One in plaid and one in woodgrain.

 (more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

Have you seen Laura's Le Chapeau hat?  I think I need this one too.  She also designed the Mykonos Wrap, which would be one of the most sensible knitted accessories for a knitter living in Texas.  So, I really need to knit this one, too.  It calls for lace weight in the pattern, but since I don't have any lace, I'm thinking I could modify it for some of the stray skeins of fingering or light fingering I have around my house.  I think it would still look appropriately airy.

Other post mentioning this knit is here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Quadri

More hats and more hats.  This one is Quadri, by Michele Wang.  Michele also designed Stonecutter, the sweater pattern I've been dreaming about knitting since it was published.  Stonecutter was the reason I joined the JunkYarn Cable-Along, but then I got side-tracked by all of the hats.




I think it's Kristin of Voolenvine's fault.  Her Quadri was the perfect cabledy knit and it inspired me to cast one on.  She'd also just started dyeing non-superwash worsted yarn, so it seemed fitting to use a skein of  the Toasty base to knit mine.


It's the Gashlycrumb colorway, but is way more toned down than on super wash wool.  I don't mind the difference because she made it clear that it came out less variegated and I liked the color for itself- sort of buff colored.  The only thing similar to it in my stash is her Gashlycrumb in a superwash fingering.  So, I'm pleased with this worsted skein.



Details- I used size 6 needles and much less than one skein of Toasty worsted.  In fact, I had enough left to use for a colorwork hat the next day.  I chose to knit the smallest size simply because my hat bands are usually floppy and I find my hats sliding off of my head.  I did want slouch, however, in the hat body, so I blocked it out without stretching the band.  I think the fit is great now, but I still may block it out for more height (slouchiness).  The heaviness of the giant pompom adds to the slouchiness, too.



The pompom required a serious internet search.   had a hard time finding any faux fur pompoms that I liked.  I don't like Lion Brand's fur moms because they feel like a much loved on stuffed animal, not at all like real fur.  I decided to try Bernat's but they've been sold out for some time now.  I feel like most websites I use lately are buggy, as in showing inventory that doesn't exist, freezing on the submit button and ordering multiple items accidentally.  I did manage to order both a dark brown and aubergine pompom from Walmart.com and have it sent to the store for pick-up.  Let me tell you, when my husband picked the package up for me, he was less than thrilled when the customer service rep. opened the box.  She held the furry pompoms above her head, turning right and left, asking if that was, indeed, what he'd ordered.



I don't normally like shopping at Walmart, but I wanted this hat complete for my son's soccer kickoff tournament and didn't trust myself to make my own without some practice.  When I do try making my own, I'll use Tiny Owl's faux fur pompom tutorial.  Even though I decided to buy mine, Stephanie's video was worth watching for the entertainment value, alone.  (This is off the subject, but I was downloading music for a workout playlist yesterday and discovered that the theme song for the movie Hanna, by The Chemical Brothers, features Stephanie's vocals.)

So dark brown and aubergine were all I could find.  Aubergine is an unusual choice for me, but when you see the All in a Row colorwork hat I used my Gashlycrumb leftovers on, you'll get why I wanted such a hue.


So, overall, I am satisfied with this hat.  I think a heavier Aran weight yarn would make the hat warmer and the perfect amount of slouchy, but I used the yarn I wanted, so I'm satisfied.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

So what are your favorite winter hat styles or patterns, friends?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Prim

Something pretty cool happened to me the other day.  I'd had a yuck week and was struggling to get motivated while feeling down one friday morning, when I saw this.  I'd won Andrea Mowry's designer anniversary instagram contest.  I guess my blues weren't anything too serious because they were left in the dust as I scrolled through all of the patterns this would include (all of her designs thus far) and mentally noted what I did and did not have yarn for.  That was my entire morning.





So this is my first pattern to knit from the giveaway.  It's a cute little cabled beanie that shows off this beautiful skein of Red Sock Blue Sock Yarn's merino Aran in Lakeside.  Guys, I had no clue how gorgeous this color was when I ordered it via my tiny phone screen.  It is the best blue!  I was so pleased to use it for one of Andrea's designs.



Now, it wasn't blocked at the time of these photos, but I just take the photos when I can get out in some decent light, especially in the fall.  You can see that it fits great as is, but I'll get a little more slouch out of it with a good blocking.  That should happen today, as I have tons of knits to block and lay out all over my house to dry.

Details: I made no mods for this pattern.  I used US size 3 needles for the ribbing and size 5s for the hat.  I have another of Andrea's hats on my Christmas gift list: GO! then I'll be focusing on brioche with a Vintage Prim,  Marley and Briochealiscious, which I ordered some Hawthorne and Stroll sale yarn for the very day I won the contest.



I've knit one other hat from Andrea (Kingsley, which I've knit twice) but have been wanting to try one of her shawl patterns.  I think it's crazy how much she has produced in just one year of designing.  That was a massive prize!  And there is not one pattern in there that I do not want to knit.  But, the aforementioned brioche projects and Modern Mukluks are the ones I want to try first.



So my Christmas knitting looks to be all for me, except for the Go! hat (though I did give something away early).  What about you?  Are you being the generous knitting type or the semi-Grinchy type like me?