inspiration comes from everywhere

I was very happy with my sock pattern. I know it…well. In fact I pretty nearly have it memorized. Its a toe up pattern that I work on one circular needle, Magic Loop style. Which is my absolute favorite method for knitting socks. I can do 2 circs, but I hate the dangling ends. I can also do DPN’s (Double Pointed Needles for the uninitiated). I just prefer Magic Loop. With it I can….

But I digress…

As I was saying its a great pattern – written by Jennifer Donze, a Master Knitter and one of the instructors at Cream City Yarns. It’s also a personalized pattern and Jennifer includes all of the instructions for calculating a perfect, custom fit sock. You’ll find it on Ravelry: Custom Toe Up Sock by J Donze Knits. I’ve made several pairs of socks using this pattern. Normally I knit the foot and heel in stockinette then go wild on the leg. I use a lot of different patterns on the leg – usually from another book of mine: Socks A la Carte 2 – Toes Up. Its a very nice book that lets you pick and chose what toe, what heel and what leg you want. I knit one complete sock from this book and now really just use it for the cuffs and leg.

But I was reading my news feeds a while back and came across a review of a pattern from one of the books I own: The Knitter’s Book of Socks. She’s a blogger that I really like, so I figured I could do worse. If you want to read her review it’s here: Knitting Sarah – Turbo Toes.

Now, I’ve read The Knitter’s Book of Socks (how pathetic am I? I read knitting books…) but have never tried any of the patterns. I like my toe-up pattern. I know it and it has served me well but… but… Linen stitch toe and heel? What the heck is linen stitch? I have very rough toes and heels – anything I can do to make them stronger… And… AND – this is a toe up pattern! I’m not the only one who like her socks toes up! It was written for 2 circs, but that’s easy enough to adapt to Magic Loop. And I have that nice skein of Sheepish BFL in that nice orange…

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I almost felt like I was betraying a friend – Sheepish is Jennifer’s hand dyed yarn. But I reasoned that, if I was going to make socks in this pretty color and have them really last I should do everything I can to make a good sock, right?

So I made a copy of the pattern – I do this because I don’t like writing and highlighting in my books – highlighted my size every place there was a difference in count and cast on.

Sarah was right – the pattern is addictive. I couldn’t stop. One Friday I even did an all nighter -falling into bed at 5am with numb hands.

Now there was a client visit and a flight to Cleveland and back in there too. I worried about security taking away my Addi Sock Rockets, so I switched to a cheap pair of Knitter’s Pride Karbonz (I DO NOT recommend these – they have terrible joins). I knit happily away at that first sock until I realized, upon arrival in Cleveland that I needed my smaller needle – which was at home. That was all well and good because something was bothering me about that sock. It just didn’t look right.

I continued with it when I got home for a bit then it hit me – my linen stitch parts just weren’t right. I know the stitch isn’t especially stretchy – I got that from my swatch – but mine was all pulled in and crummy looking. So I frogged. All. The. Way. Back. I cast on again and this time I cheated and used a row counter to make certain that I didn’t get off count. That turned the tide – from there on my needles were singing. Sock one done:
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I’m much happier with this one. It looks like a real, live sock. Like something you would actually wear (and COULD wear) on your foot.

Now, I’d read this pattern when I read the book and it looked a bit over my head. I still consider myself a novice knitter, or maybe very early intermediate (like 4th grade…). I’d only really had 2 knitting classes – the first sock club and the Camp Hoodie. What business did I have knitting exotic patterns like this one?

And, if I hadn’t been following Sarah’s blog and saw her post about it I never would have. She gave me the inspiration to try something new and more than a little out of my comfort zone. Just like with the cowl I knit for the Ravellenic Games a while back – it was the little push I needed to try something different.

So, while I still love my basic toe-up sock pattern I feel ready now to creep out onto another limb. Maybe I’ll try those socks by Cat Bordhi next….

Olympics – but not of knitting

I saw something on my YLS’s group board on Ravelry the other day – about knitting to the Olympics. Whaaaat? Say I? The Ravellenic Games?? Sounds like fun! I’d like me a piece of that action.

So, after reading up a bit on it I decided, what the hey? I’ll give it a lash.

I’ve never taken part in a KAL before. My schedule is normally pretty crazy and it’s hard to keep up with any kind of group of more experienced knitters. I’ll be going along then BAM! I have a string of 12-14 hour days and I’ve fallen behind the group. Now, I’m sure I take things way too literally, but that’s kind of the place I’m at with my knitting right now. I’m still (mostly) following patterns slavishly – not really brave enough to strike out on my own (well except for the legs of my socks… and my fingerless mitts… and that one vest I made without a pattern… but those are all simple, uncomplicated projects). In general, if I have a pattern for something I follow the pattern (also unlike sewing where I open the envelope, pull out the tissue and pretty much toss the instructions sheets in the trash – not there yet with knitting). Much the same with the KAL’s I’ve tried – if I’m not keeping up with the group I get discouraged and usually drop out.

But this one is different. You work at your own pace. You pick your own project and materials. If you want to knit a super-bulky scarf at 6 SPI then go for it. If you want to knit a delicate, lacy shawl with 14 charts (TERROR!!) then go for it.

I decided on middle-of-the-road for myself. I entered the Cross Cowl.

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After a stop at Cream City Yarn in Brookfield (http://creamcityyarn.com) I settled on the Brae Cowl (above). Now you have to remember – I do not consider myself an experienced knitter. The only colorwork I’ve done thus far was in the Camp Hoodie that I made for Becky. Remember?

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That little checkerboard pattern is all the colorwork that I’ve ever done and now I’m going to do an entire piece? Granted, it’s a COWL for gosh sakes. A little cowl – hardly something to be afraid of. Sheesh!

But, what the hey? I bought 3 hanks of Cascade 220 and joined the mass cast on.

In honor of my favorite sport and team (and inspired by the jacket that I had on) my colors are green, gold and cream, so I named my project the Green Brae cowl – yes, I know – cutesy. I don’t care. I wanted something to wear with that jacket and a knitted scarf would just have been too bulky.

Now, as if the colorwork wasn’t enough this little project has an entire seam of Kitchener stitch. EEEEEKKKKK! A technique that I’ve done twice and failed miserably on both times. Well, we can worry about that when it comes.

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So – we start. The cream is the lining. It is knit up from both ends and joined in the middle with the dreaded Kitchener. But, not too bad a start, huh? I got into a rhythm. I’m a continental knitter, otherwise known as a picker so it’s very natural for me to use both hands for colorwork. I hold the base or darker color in my left hand and throw the accent or lighter color with my right. This also helps me keep my strands correct, in this case the green on the bottom and the yellow on top. After I got over myself I started to really have fun with it.

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Even Max got into the action!

Then, suddenly it was done!

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That second shot is the join. I can see the line of the join, but I haven’t blocked it yet, so I’m hoping that will work itself out. I made a couple little bobbles on the Kitchener, but the directions in the pattern helped me immensely. Her instructions overall are quite well written.

Oh, I almost forgot – it was also the first time I knit from any sort of chart!

So tomorrow I block and Sunday I turn in my entry at CCY. So, maybe this was a little (like tiny) personal Olympics of knitting. Tome the Olympics has always been about challenging yourself, doing you best in the company of the best in the world. Well, my little cowl is retry damn good for me – learning new things and reinforcing techniques.

I’m ready for the podium, Mr. Putin!

Is there a 12-step program for yarn addicts?

Just some of my collection

Just some of my collection

That’s 11. 11! ELEVEN! And this is just the sock yarn, and I’m certain not all of it. I have more in other bags scattered about the house – at least 4 more skeins. This isn’t counting the 2 tubs of other yarn – worsted, wool, bamboo, alpaca…

I admit it – it’s an addiction. I know I can knit socks fairly quickly – usually about a pair a month if I remain dedicated. Socks are such a great project – perfect for taking along and really easy to do once you have a few techniques down. I knit mine toe-up on one big circ – magic-loop style. Mostly. I sometimes experiment with top-down as well but I’m really no good a the Kitchener stitch. But, I ask you – 16 skeins of sock yarn? When does it spill over into being dangerous?

There are lots of other yarns in my stash, too. Check me out on Ravelry sometime (juded55) – I’m OCD about keeping that up to date ever since I bought the same pattern 3 times from 3 different stores… I must have really liked that pattern. Plus it’s handy because I’m such an impulse buyer. If it isn’t sock yarn it’s just pure ‘I’m buying this because it’s pretty/soft/sparkly…’ or some such. (About the sparkly thing – I’m half German, half Polish – we love our sparkly/shiny/brightly colored things – I think we are descended from crows.)

These are from the sock pile but, case in point:

MadTosh Sock in ForestryLook at that color!! The photo hardly does it justice. It’s so vibrant in person that it just about glows.

And this:

Hand Maiden Casbah SockThis one has cashmere in it. CASHMERE! I can tell you – this ain’t going to be a sock, either. This one is going around my neck! It’s incredibly soft – almost like holding a cloud in your hand.

One more:

Lorna's Laces SoulmateI already have a skein of Lorna’s Laces Soulmate, but I had to buy this one because of the name. The NAME, you ask? YES!! The name: Zombie Barbeque – how great is that? And I know that naming convention is why I’m eventually going to buy at least a skein from Indigo Dragonfly. Their colorways are wonderful, but they also have such fun names. Names like: Bright Lights, Big City, Busy Highway, Slow Unicorn – yes, that’s the name. Go check it out for yourself: http://www.indigodragonfly.ca/product-category/weight/sportdk/

None of this has impacted my life, other than to add joy and a lot of really pretty socks. But, where is the edge? Where does that point that I’m teetering upon tip and I start sliding down the slippery slope with the next stop being the County Nuthouse?

Did I miss the flyer for the 12-step yarn addiction program? Can somebody send it to me, please?

Or is it too late…….?

Swatches, how I love ya, how I love ya

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Well – not really. At least not until I learned how important a step to successful knitting they are, anyway

Ah the old days…
Buy Yarn
Buy (or find in the house) needles
Cast on
Knit

So simple. And garments that looked totally crappy.

Oh, I wore them. I remember that, when I was in college my Sister-in-law knitted a sweater – I think it was supposed to be for my father? Mother? Somebody… Anyway that thing hung down to my knees, it was tight and yet completely misshapen. But I wore it. Nearly every winter day (it was Tucson, Arizona – it wasn’t that cold) for almost 5 years.

I remember a sweater I knitted when I first moved to upstate NY. Hung on me like a gunny sack. But I wore it until it wore out.

I don’t like to waste things.

But it turns out that, by not checking my gauge – not learning how to – I wasted so much time and yarn – far more than a few little 4×4″ squares would have – in making garments that were ugly. And it really is so easy!! (http://youtu.be/cMom5EHQbPA)

So this little guy in the photo (like my blocking mat? I don’t know what princess she’s supposed to be but she comes in handy!) is a swatch for my next big project – another sweater for Becky. This time we reversed. She picked out the pattern and I picked the yarn. This is Valley Superwash from WEBS (yarn.com) in a beautiful dark magenta. This yarn is very soft and lovely – I can’t wait to work with it – but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to check my gauge!

Yeah – I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s important! It’s thrifty! It’s therapeutic – nothing more relaxing than breaking out the needles and some pretty yarn and whipping off a nice 4×4 square in stockinette…

I finished something!

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It’s DONE!! I finished a sweater!

Now, granted it was with a fairly hefty yarn (Spud and Chloe sweater – it claims to be worsted, but I’d put it more at a light aran) and it doesn’t have sleeves (but… but… it has a HOOD!!) – but I finished it! Blocking and everything. Warning: if you work with this yarn it takes a year to dry. I really need to get one of those sweater drying racks that’s like a mesh hammock for sweaters. I had this laid out on towels and it took 4 days to dry – no joke!

But none of that is the point. The point really is the satisfaction I get from finally finishing a project and having it come out looking like it’s supposed to. This feeling is still relatively new for me. I’ve made lots of stuff, but not a lot of it (other than home dec or crafty stuff) has turned out like it was supposed to.

Now, since I’ve been taking classes and have had such things as swatching, gauge and blocking demystified more of my projects are looking like they should. It’s exciting!

I’ve never been one who follows the pack. Not at all – unless it’s the Green Bay guys. But spending a lot of time and effort to make a sweater or pair of socks or hat, then to have them look misshapen and weird just isn’t cool.

Now that I know how to measure my gauge and block I’m proud to wear what I’ve made (well this project is for Becky, so I hope she’s proud to wear it). Stuff finally looks good and fits – it isn’t either down to my knees (because I understand row gauge now) or hanging off my shoulders (because I don’t just indiscriminately add stitches to make things bigger). And I’ve also made a leap to applying what I’ve learned as a seamstress to my knitting. A lot of the concepts are complimentary. The difference is that, with sewing you’re buying your fabric, then cutting it and putting it back together to create a garment. In knitting you’re making your own fabric and incorporating shaping in that creating so that, when you put the pieces together they fit correctly.

Knits that fit and look good… what a concept, huh?

Symmetry and local yarn shops

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This is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in a colorway called Christmas at Downton. Now, as I was a huge fan of the show up until the end of season 3 (SPOILER: they killed off my favorite character – I may not be back for season 4) I simply had to have a skein of this yarn. I have one skein of Lorna’s – a Solemate in Flamingo which I bought as part of a fund raiser for breast cancer research, so I’m familiar with the yarn. And this colorway really is evocative of the Christmas season in that grand pile.

The toe, foot and heel came off without a hitch. After a bit of practice at it I’m getting pretty fair at knitting socks – and fair warning you’re going to see a lot of socks here. I tend to knit my usual toe-up pattern then go wild with the cuffs. I look through my books to find a stitch pattern that I like, work out how many stitches I need and go – I knit the cuff until I have just enough yarn to do a super-stretchy bind off and done!

But, sometimes I have trouble making a stitch pattern work. That was he case with this one. I putzed and fussed and cursed and ripped back. Sometimes I had an extra stitch or two at the end of the round, sometimes I was short a stitch – I simply could not make this blessed pattern work! Now, normally I would just rip it back to right above the ankle (I leave about an inch above the heel before I start my pattern stitch) and would just do a plain rib, but this time I was determined to understand where I was going wrong. So, since I had to stop out to the yarn shop anyway to pick up a skein of Spud and Chloe sweater I took my book along to see if they would help me read the stitch. Sometimes, when another person reads the stitch they can see if there is a misprint in the book and I was beginning to wonder if this was the case here since I was doing everything I could think of, including counting the pattern out loud to the cats. I didn’t bring my work because I didn’t want that to bias the interpretation on the stitch pattern.

We poured over the pattern, counted it out, figured out the repeats, everything we could think of and it was written correctly. Using the number of stitches I was I should not have had any problems. I went home, thinking on the entire drive that there had to be something in the way I was working that was causing me to go wrong.

When I got home I gamely took up my needles and counted again and that’s when something that Lisa said struck me. She said “Well, since you’re working the magic loop method you have 36 stitches on each needle, which is half of 72 and also divisible by 9…” as she tapped on her calculator. But I didn’t have 36 stitches on each needle – I had something like 41 on one and 31 on the other or some such weird distribution – definitely not symmetrical. So I quickly shifted 5 stitches onto the other needle and began working and VOILA! SUCCESS! I couldn’t believe that something so simple was the root of my problem with a simple stitch pattern (it is k one row, p one row, k2tog [yo-k1 3 times, k2tog 3 times] k 1 row – that’s it). I felt alternately dumb as a box of rocks and grateful for the help I received. So I knitted away on that cuff finishing it up at about 2am – I couldn’t stop.

But that’s the wonderful thing about a local merchant. They take the time to help their customers. It’s all about customer service for them – and, since that’s my profession appreciate it probably more than a lot of people would. Visit a local yarn shop and see what I mean – you will never want to leave!

Local yarn shops are a good thing….

So is symmetry.

Knitting at night

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I know a couple who love to go camping. They are very dear friends of mine and the girl half is very (VERY) clumsy. She can keep right on walking even when her feet roll over and she’s walking on her ankles, but she can’t walk a straight line to save her soul. It really is funny – she as clumsy as a ballet dancer trying to walk down a city street.

To help save her life her hubby bought her a headlamp for walking about after dark – like to (pardon my indelicacy) pee. There are no lighted bathrooms in the Adirondack’s and she always seems to have to pee at 2am. She loved it and and is now on her third – that’s how much she’s used it (and fallen to break them).

I always thought they were really cool, but didn’t have much use for one since I don’t camp or bike ride at night. I could use one while walking, but our apartment complex is well lit, and I tend to stay on the circle here. But I have a new passion that I’d like to practice after dark, one that required the use of both hands, so use of a flashlight would be cumbersome. And I don’t want to string lights around my patio – no place to plus them in first, and I just don’t want a lot of lights glaring down on me when I’m peacefully sitting outside in the evening.

Just take a look at that neato item on my head – a sweet little headlamp! For what you ask? Need you ask? So I can knit at night!

Crazy, no?

Frogging, root beer and the mysteries of bluetooth…

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See that sweet little ball of yarn there? Yup – that one, sitting on top of my old afghan – the bright yellow one? Folks, that used to be a sock. More specifically a pom pom ped. That didn’t work. and that, my friends was why it got frogged. It was done, all toe decreased and Kitchenered and everything – and I ripped it all out. Because that’s what you do when your knitting just isn’t right.

What was so wrong with it you may ask that I completely tore down a completed sock? Well as I worked on sock #2 it became evident that I had completely miscounted the heel flap -having a stitch counter helped me realize that. And I had also somehow done my toe decreases unevenly. And my Kitchener stitch was horrendous.

So that was one day this week. Then came yesterday.

I love root beer. A&W Diet root beer – my fave. Until half the bottle winds up in my knitting bag… on my work in progress… for class tomorrow… with my homework not yet done… I love Napoleon, my little black cat. He’s one of the sweetest little kitties. But he’s the clumsiest cats I’ve ever known. Fuz could walk across the coffee table and not touch a single thing. Napoleon on the other had could knock over a glass if it were the only thing on the table – or a root beer bottle. So good luck getting my homework done.

And thanks to the Apple community forums I now have a keyboard again to type this on my iPad. For the last week I not been able to pair the keyboard with my iPad. The SAME keyboard that I have written every post with since I began this blog. After scouring the site for days (and a trip to the Apple store this evening and getting soaking wet – don’t ask) I finally found my answer. I was reading about this guy who was having the same problem and he found that his keyboard was paired with his iMac and he didn’t ‘forget’ the device when he started using a different keyboard. Well, my iMac has been off all week, and the guy at the store had no problems pairing it when I remembered that I had paired this keyboard with my Apple TV (yes – I am a gadget junkie). Once I ‘forgot’ the device on my ATV PRESTO! I am back to writing this rambling blog.

And just for listening to that whole ramble I’m going to reward you with another photo of my little Poli. Say Hi, Poli….

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Hmmmmmm

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You’ve probably guessed by now that I love to knit. It has helped me relax, to focus and to quit smoking (not a cig since January). I love soft, pretty things, socks, sweaters, scarves, hats and shawls.

I also love yarn – the feel of it, the variety – it’s wonderful stuff. Since I’ve been knitting almost obsessively I’ve mostly used wool and its wonderful. Animal fibers. Ahhhhhh…. Lovely sheep-y wool, alpaca, llama, even exotics like opossum and cat. The feel of it and the warmth, it feels lovely on my hands and creates wonderful fabric.

Now I’m redoing that infamous lost gauge swatch using a yarn that I’ve never tried before and I’m not all that sure I like it, or that I’ll be able to even work with it. It’s called Sea Song and its made of cotton and kelp. It really intrigued me.

So I’m working my swatch and really struggling with this yarn. It’s very smooth, to the point of being slippery and I don’t like the way my stitches look. It’ doesn’t have any body and its – I don’t know, all I can think of it flabby. Plus it’s really stressing my hand. I had to put the needles down after only 20 minutes, how would I get through an entire sweater with this stuff? I don’t know if all plant-based yarns are this way, are they? Now Cascade 220 Sport? Beautiful, smooth, easy to work with. Like buttah. Madelinetosh? Heavenly. Plucky feet? Ahhhhhhh…. This Sea Song? Not so much.

So we’ll see if I get a sweater out of this or a whole new set of dishcloths.

Dang – I lost it!

Have you ever made something then promptly lost it? Has it ever just twisted your nose? Well that’s how I feel. Mainly because this time I was a good girl. I did the proper steps, in the proper order and dang if it isn’t gone.

My gauge swatch.

I lost it.

I made a nice sized gauge swatch in 3×3 ribbing, which is what the majority of this new top I’m making is knit in. Nice size, about 6″x6″ unblocked. Then, following my instructor’s advice I put it in the wash with the other stuff I would normally wash at that cycle and temp. When I put the stuff into the dryer I completely forgot about it until I was back at work (I work from home, so I try to do laundry on lunch and breaks – it’s usually a nice walk down to the laundry room and back). I figured that, if it came out really bad I could make another. But when I took my clothes out of the dryer it wasn’t there. I folded my t-shirts, but it wasn’t clinging to one of them. I folded my towels, unmentionables, camis – nanda – it wasn’t even hanging onto my microfiber dish cloths – and those suckers stick to EVERYTHING. I was so bothered I walked back down to the laundry room to see if I dropped it but didn’t notice and a big NOPE on that one.

Oh I know I can make another. It’s just the principle of it. It’s like the poor single sock – used to being a couple and now on its own and lonely. Dryers shouldn’t eat clothes.

Or swatches!

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