Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: Black & Bright Orange Edition

Two Toes
Haida Leyburns and Red Hot Chili Empoisonnée socks

I'm not quite sure what it is about the new year that makes me want to join knitalongs. My success in these ventures is horribly mixed--for every Ravelympics success there is another Sock Knitters Anonymous failure. Sometimes, a KAL starts up right when I'm thinking about knitting something that fits the criteria anyway, or it involves materials that I already have onhand, as with the Red Hot Chili socks. Sometimes, you think that it involves what you already have onhand, and then you go out and buy new yarn anyway, as with the Haida Leyburn socks. Either way, it's a good excuse to start something new and join the global knitting community. An excuse I don't really need, obviously, but an excuse nonetheless.

Last week I finished the first of the Red Hot Chili socks (which is why there's another toe in progress), and I'm very pleased with the result:

Red Hot Chili - Sock #1

The toe-up-sock-with-gussets construction is fairly new to me, but I tried to just follow the instructions and believe that it would all work out. That strategy worked out just fine--I was genuinely surprised that I had the right number of stitches before starting the heel turn. I love the twisted stitch ribbing on the gusset & the expanding cables up the leg. At the same time, I really like that there's a lot of plain knitting to show off the yarn and keep the knitting speedy. I knew that the yarn for the Haida Leyburns was on the way, so I tried to get a good start on the second sock.

I'm glad that I did, because the Leyburn pattern is also a lot of fun to knit and it would have been easy to stop thinking about the orange socks once the black sock was on the needles. I'm knitting the Leyburns using the stitch counts in the pattern so far, but I substituted an Easy Toe (from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks) for the short row toe. It's much easier for me to remember "increase every other row" than "wrap, turn, pick up wraps, double wrap". The toe is fairly wide, in keeping with the designer's preference, and I like it that way--it feels comfortable so far, anyway.

I'm taking both of these to Boston next weekend, and leaving the bigger projects at home this time (though maybe I should sneak in another project, just in case). There should be enough variety in between these two to keep me occupied on the plane. I can knit the red socks if the light is bad (provided I can see the charts), and knit the black socks if it's too bumpy for chart reading.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Only Thing That's Different is Underneath My Hat

Owl Hat

Due to the snowy / icy conditions in December and my recurring fever / cold, I only exchanged the last of my holiday gifts last weekend. This gave me a little extra time, and I whipped up this Owl Hat out of some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran from my stash. Although J____ was too hopped up on goofballs (or whatever it is that sends a 4 year old into crazytown) to try it on when I gave it to her, her mother sent me the photo above, and it looks pretty cute! 90% of the cuteness is J____, but the hat is a good color for her pretty blue eyes and it's big enough to accomodate her giant head of hair, so I couldn't be happier. J____, on the other hand, may have liked the cotton dishcloth with a mitten (Rav project link) on it better than either the hat or the felted slippers. Good to know, J_____, good to know.

The Only Thing That's Different is Underneath My Hat": They Might Be Giants, Purple Toupee.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Should I Be Worried?

(or, How Worried Should I Be?)

I've been sucked into another KAL, this time via the Socks that Rawk group on Ravelry. The pattern is the Leyburn Socks, and the group is trying to knit it in as many different colorways as possible. This pattern was already in my queue, and the deadline for finishing isn't until the end of March, so it's a good fit. About 150-ish people signed up before me, so all of the colors I already have were taken. I ordered a skein of Haida that I've had my eye on. When I wind yarn at home, I always hold the yarn over my finger so that I can feel for knots and get a slightly tighter ball of yarn. Here's how it looked when I finished:


The yarn looks great, but my finger? Normally there's not a black ring there, so really--how worried should I be? All that dye coming out isn't going to leave me with weird brown socks instead of richly blue and black socks, is it? I'll have to remember to give the socks a vinegar bath once they're all knit up. On the plus side, the color is just what I was looking for (assuming that it doesn't fade), and if it really sheds a lot of dye once I start knitting it, I know that Blue Moon will exchange it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Twisting, Twisting in the Wind

. . . or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat is coming up next month, and while knitting swatches for one of my classes I realized that it's been a long time since I worked on my Vickie Cardigan (here's the Rav Link). I bought the pattern at Madrona in mid-February from Black Water Abbey, got the yarn in mid-March, and finished the first sleeve by mid-April. Not a bad pace, considering that I usually have a lot of projects going at once and that I didn't take it with me when I was travelling in March. However, once spring really rolled around, I put it away and haven't taken it out again. My original intention was to finish it before Madrona 2009, but now I'd just like to get back to it so that I have a shot at Madrona 2010. That's a good goal, right? Work on a WIP instead of buying more yarn, add more variety to the projects that are currently in rotation ('cause it can't all be on size 0 needles, or plain stockinette, or stranded colorwork), and eventually end up with a really nice sweater.

So I pulled out the second sleeve, found my notes and the pattern, and got right back into it. After knitting a couple of inches, I realized that I'd made an error before putting this into hibernation. An error that I could have fixed without ripping if I'd seen it a few days ago, but now:

Two Sleeves

Now it needs to be ripped. You can see the error, right? There should be an additional twist between the diamonds. This may have been the reason I stopped working on this sweater, but I don't remember seeing the mistake, and I definitely didn't make any notes about it. It's not that bad, really--it's still the cuff edge of the sleeve so it won't take that long to get back to where I started. The photo above doesn't show that I'm barely past what's shown of Sleeve #2--the photo below shows better how much needs to go:


Note to self: examine dormant WIPs better before restarting. And maybe before putting them into hibernation, look at them first and make a note if anything is wrong. Or better yet, rip back before putting it into hibernation--there's barely enough vacant space in my brain to remember to look at notes!

Friday, January 16, 2009

You're Trying My Patience, Try Pink Carnations, Red Roses, and Yellow Daffodils


A friend at work mentioned that she'd like a felted flower pin a looong time ago, and after checking out "Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers"at the library and returning it overdue without knitting, and then buying it and forgetting about it, I finally cranked out the posy above in maybe a half hour. The pattern is the "Five Star Flower", and I used Cascade 220 in a few different shades from my stash. This flower pattern knits up very quickly, and there are several other patterns in the book that I have my eye on. The pin has been all but assembled since mid-December--the weather and holidays made my schedule a little erratic, and then it took some time to remember to buy pin backings. I still can't quite believe that I didn't already have any pin backs, but lesson learned--assemble all supplies at once! I finally got it together, and my friend likes it, so all is well. And finishing it has made me want to knit more of these things, maybe to embellish a bag, or make a garland (I don't know what for), or just for the sake of felting some stuff.

The reason I finally remembered the pin request is that I needed something to embellish these felted clogs, and thought felted flowers would be a good way to go. I considered needle felting something, but I have zero experience and I wasn't able to locate my needle felting supplies (I'm still looking for them). Also, since the clogs are likely to be washed at some point, I wanted to avoid things like beads and sequins (which would have looked awesome) that might fall off in the wash. I knit a large flower and a leaf for the pin, and then I knit a pair of smaller flowers for the clogs. Here's what they looked like unfelted:


And here they are felted:


I felted them possibly a little too much, because I wanted them to be firm. You can see that the small flowers are basically just the center of the larger flowers. The pattern is very adaptable.

Here are the finished clogs sitting on the back of the couch (with mild dachshund intervention):


The slipper suspense is mounting--I haven't given them away yet (yes, it's mid-January), so I'm not sure whether they will fit J____ or whether she'll like them as much as Frieda and Gretel do. Fingers crossed I can deliver them this weekend--can't wait too long with a growing kid, or the "it fits" window may pass right by!

"You're Trying My Patience, Try Pink Carnations, Red Roses, and Yellow Daffodils": Wilco, Forget the Flowers

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Have Got to Start Reading More


This is the stack of books that I'm trying (though not hard enough) to get through. All but "Twilight", which I started but haven't gotten very far into, have been added to the stack in the last two or three weeks. It's a pretty wide selection, though maybe a bit heavy on European royal history/ I think that both the Antonia Fraser book and Alison Weir books recently came out in paperback, and I'm a big fan of both authors (and not a secret Royalist). Time to get cracking, even though all I can think about are the Red Hot Chili Socks & other knitting projects.

Any suggestions for after I get through or abandon these books?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Tale of Two Gussets

So the fever that I had a couple of weeks ago went dormant, and then came back as a continuing mild cold. First it was a stuffy nose, then it was a slightly scratchy throat, then it was coughing, and now it's runny eyes & nose accompanied by intermittant sneezing. Tomorrow? I predict more nose running, and chapped lips. I share this not because I want your pity (except for the fever, and yesterday's hacking cough, it hasn't been that bad), but because it's possibly to blame for my gusset knitting blunder on my newest sock pattern. Behold, the gussets:


See the nice right triangle in the top photo? And the bad, broomstick-looking triangle in the bottom photo? I was trying to be so careful about increasing on the top of the foot to maintain the triangle, but I totally missed the error on the right side gusset until I'd finished the whole gusset and was trying to figure out where to start the heel turn. I'd taken a laissez-faire attitude towards top and bottom of the toe and stitch marker placement, and so I had to take a break to read the directions to figure out where to start, when I finally saw the mistake. Urgh. Slightly weird beginning to side cable at the toe? I can live with that. Weirdly assymmetric gussets? No can do. I've ripped back to the good old days, the days when both gussets had right triangles, and I'm going to fix it. I'm hoping I don't end up having to rip back to the beginning of the gusset, but I can live with it if I have to.

Even though I lost a lot of work (which I blame on being very cough-y while knitting), I love these socks. The pattern (Empoisonnée by Yarnissima) is very nicely written, with enough usual detail to keep me moving along, but not so much that it overwhelms the yarn. I love the detail of the cables running up the side of the stockinette foot, and I'm very pleased with the stripes in the yarn. This is the first time I've knit with Wollmeise (this is Red Hot Chili - Medium in the 100% superwash base), and it is really nice to work with. It's a little tricky to pick up the stitches without catching one of the fine strands, but that's the case with any yarn I knit on size 0 needles.

Although I'd love to be further along, I'm not at all sorry that I'm reknitting part of this sock. It's that interesting. I can't wait to find out what happens after I get to the heel--I hope my brain can handle it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: Hulk Angry! Hulk Smash! edition


It's been a really, really, really long time since I finished a pair of socks in less than two weeks, and I have to say that it's a pretty nice feeling to have finished these Hulk Smash (Rav Link) socks. The yarn (CashSport String in Hulk Smash) is super cozy, and since it's a sport weight it knit up quickly and will be warm. The cashmere content makes the yarn super soft, too. I only had one skein, and wasn't so sure how far it would go, but there was plenty for these short socks. I used about 85% of the skein, which was fine by me--I prefer not to start freaking out about running out of yarn when I'm knitting a new pattern or new yarn, and the length of these is very comfortable as-is.

I know that I've been over this before, but the pattern is Berry Season (Rav link) from the book 2-at-a-Time Socks. The pattern was very easy to follow (although it took me a while to memorize the stitch pattern, because I was spacing out instead of looking at the very very simple chart). I am relieved that I now have an offline source for clear kitchener stitch instructions--I'm so tired of having to kitchener in front of my desktop computer while reading the directions in Knitty. Seriously.

A big problem with living in the Seattle area this time of the year is that the days are dark--on a rainy day like today, there may have been a 15 minute photography window at some point, but if there was I didn't see it. As a result, the color in the photo above is a little dull, and doesn't lend full credit to the socks. It is more accurate than the super saturated version below that really makes me think of the Hulk, and reminds me that I need to start running more if I'm going to run this year's St. Pat's Dash:

Hulk Smash!  Extra Green!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I Got the Chills, They're Multiplyin'


Brrrr . . . it's cold outside today. The downside is that I was hoping to take the dogs for a long walk or go for a run, and the upside is that I don't feel bad about doing neither. Instead, I've been finishing Christmas Cards (just looking for a few missing addresses now), running errands, packaging up the Green Buzzbee, and knitting. I finished the Red Tune Cap, and although it is too small for me (my head is Large, I knit size M as a gift), I want to wear it around the house because I love it. I love the shaping at the top, I love the yarn (Malabrigo, in Ravelry Red from Webs), I love the idea of a secret iPod and headphones pocket. I used about 54 grams of the 100 g skein for the Medium, so there's no way I'll get a Large hat out of the remainder, but I may have some leftover Malabrigo that I could stripe into another hat. This is the first time I've knit a top-down hat, and it makes so much sense to knit hats this way because you can try it on as you go. That didn't help me a lot, since the hat is for a smaller-headed person, but I did try it on a few times anyway. The pattern, as I mentioned in my first post about this hat, is available here.

In other knitting news, the Red Hot Chili socks are a lot slower work, but they are starting to look awesome:


I love the way the Wollmeise is striping, even though I know that it won't last once I start increasing for the gussets. I'm knitting these on size 0 needles, and the fabric is nice and firm (but not too stiff to knit).

What I really should do, on this cold winter day, is finish the last several inches of the Hulk Smash socks, and put them on my freezing cold toes--but it's more likely that I'll take a nap right now, and use dachshunds to warm up my feet!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Out With the Old, in With the New

Out with the old, in with the new

Presenting on the left: the last finished item of 2008, the Green Buzzbee hat. I knit this hat in a few days, and I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. I used Cascade 220 superwash in a heathery evergreen, and the color has a ton of depth. In addition to the evergreen, there's yellow, and copper, and more--as I learned while cutting off the tip of the hat and reknitting it because I didn't like the way the point looked. The end knot made it look asymmetrical, and weaving in the end (which is why I had to cut off the top) made it look worse. On the second attempt, I turned the hat inside out before pulling the yarn through the last three stitches, and the result looks much better. The hat didn't look as awesome as I'd hoped on my Godzilla nightlight, but I might try it again now that it's been washed and blocked--although I'd like to get it in the mail tomorrow, if it's dry.

Presenting on the right: the first new project of 2009. The pattern is Empoisonnee from the Twist Collective, and at long last I'm using the Wollmeise sock yarn that I've had for several months. So far, so good, but it is early days. It's not bad luck to abandon the first new project of the year is it? Hmmm. . . maybe I should check to see if I've done that before.

Happy New Year everyone! I don't know about you, but I was pretty sick of 2008. I've been mulling over some "best of" lists from 2008 to post, and maybe I'll get around to them, but probably not. I've been really behind on everything for the last several months, so there hasn't been a lot of time for reflection. Maybe my goal for 2009 should be to let stuff go . . .