Saturday, February 28, 2009

So Close But Yet So Far

Brightest. Socks. Ever.

Today is the last day of the Sock Knitter Anonymous (Rav Link) January Sockdown, and although I'm pretty close to finishing the Red Hot Chili Socks, I'm not sure I'm going to make it. I've got about 45 rows left to go on the second sock, and there are some things on my agenda today other than finishing this.

Of course, I sabotaged my chances by:
  1. Forgetting that these socks were supposed to be for the Sockdown
  2. Forgetting that February is short
  3. Starting new socks instead of working on these
  4. Starting a new sweater (as yet unblogged about) two days ago, even though by then I remembered #1
  5. Not working on these during Madrona
  6. Worrying about and blogging about this problem on a pair of socks that don't need to be finished until the end of March.

Happily, even if I don't finish these socks today, I'm not very far off and I'm still in love with the pattern. I am at the plain-ish stretch that goes under the cuff, so I can carry this around with me and work on it. Hmm . . . I'm starting to talk myself into finishing these today . . . but why do I think I'm forgetting something else that I really have to do?

A summary of this socks' stats: The yarn is Wollmeise 100% wool in Red Hot Chili, the pattern is Empoisonee by Yarnissma (who will be teaching at Sock Summit--can't wait to see what her class will be!) from Twist Collective.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: Black and Blue Edition


I started a new pair of socks on Sunday, and I feel like I don't have a lot to show for all the work that I've done so far.

A couple of hours before I left for my friend L____'s famous annual Oscar party, I realized that I was running out of projects that I could carry around and just knit for a couple of hours. The Leyburn socks are on the verge of being ripped out and re-heeled, the Red Hot Chili socks require chart reading, and the long-anticipated Summer Sky Socks are within and inch or so of needing a beautiful tubular bind-off. What a great time to start a new pair of plain, self-striping socks! In this case, I decided to use the Gothsocks yarn that I picked up at Madrona, figuring that goth can be glam, so it's Oscar-appropriate. That, and I don't think I have any sparkley sock yarn in my stash at the moment. Anyway, the Gothsocks yarn feels really good to knit with, and I love the black-black stripes alternating with the variagated blue stripes.

It took me awhile to find the yarn, then I spent some time searching for my handouts from Lucy Neatby's class so I could knit a garter stitch toe, then I gave up and put in her "Sock Techniques 2" DVD. Then about halfway into the toe, I realized that self striping yarn would very likely look strange in a garter stitch toe that starts at the widest point of the toe, then narrows to the tip, and then expands. So then I ripped it all out, put the yarn and needles in my bag, and left for the party.

I really don't blame the wine, but I came home unhappy about the toe that I'd knit (shown above, on the bottom). The striping looks great, but this is a toe with problems. Problem number one: too wide. I thought that I needed about 72 stitches, but that was clearly too wide, so I ripped back and tried 64, which still felt to wide. Problem #2: I picked up those black stitches in un-bright light after a couple of glasses of wine, I did something that pull a stitch or two out of whack. Maybe I twisted it, or maybe I picked it up on the wrong row, but it bothers me. I do like the fabric of the yarn at this gauge (8 st to the inch, I measured it today), which is great because I wouldn't want to go down a needle size to 00s.

Today, I tried option B, seen on the top of the photo. It's the Lucy Neatby garter stitch toe in plain black sock yarn. I like this toe a lot (even if it might be slightly lopsided). There aren't any holes, I didn't have to pick up any wraps, and it's as cushy as all get out. I think that this is a much better option, and I should have plenty of the plain black yarn (Louet Gems fingering) for heels, toes, and cuffs.

The next challenge: making sure that I finish up the socks that are past the point of easy-knitting!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Someday, My Luck Will Change

Bad Leyburn

It's been awhile since I posted an update on these socks, and although I've been working on them on and off, I have to admit that they're giving me some trouble. The short row heel is a little sloppy looking to my eyes, and I started it a bit too late--the foot, which otherwise fits beautifully, has a little gappiness on the bottom that is problematic. Also, the pattern calls for extra stitches at the top of the instep / bottom of the leg to compensate for the lack of stretch in the slip-stitched rows, which made the leg far to big for me. I tried decreasing down and then continuing, but the ankle area is a mess of increases and decreases, and I really don't like the way they look.

I'm going to rip back to before the heel, I think, and try a different heel. The Lucy Neatby garter stitch heel that I learned at Madrona, as a matter of fact--I think that will feel cushier on my heel, and look a little nicer. It's going to involve some calculatin', which means that I'll have to keep better track of what I've done so that Sock #2 will end up like Sock #1 . . .

"Someday, My Luck Will Change" - song of the same name, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Try listening to it here (not sure if link is permanent or not!).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Purple Rain, Purple Rain


As a follow-up to the Elsebeth Lavold class I took at the Nordic Heritage Museum a few weeks ago, I started a pattern that she put together as part of her exhibit there. I bought the pattern from the gift shop, stopped on the way home to pick up the yarn (Silky Wool, of course), and finished this up earlier in the week. It's a fairly narrow neckwarmer, and as you can see it doubles as an earwarmer (which is easier to self photograph, too). Very straightforward pattern, and a good project to demo the Viking cables without committing to a big sweater. It took about half a skein of Silky Wool, which may leave me with enough to make the matching cuffs that were in the last Nordic Knitting Conference booklet. Although I'm also anxious to work on some socks that I started right after the Lucy Neatby class at Madrona, and to finish up some other projects so I can use tubular bindoff I learned in Jean Wong's class. Too many projects, too little time . . .

Speaking of knitting classes / events / socks, I'm assuming that everyone who lands here as heard about this:

Sock Summit 2009

If you haven't heard (or if you haven't already seen the instructor list that was posted earlier this week), go there now and read all about it. Seriously. I'm already getting worried that I won't get into any classes, or that all of the teachers I'd like to take classes from will be teaching at the exact same time, or that I will get into some classes but be woefully underqualified. Or that I'll have to steady my nerves with vodka-based drinks, which will limit my learning potential. But I'm trying to think positive . . .

Monday, February 16, 2009

Madrona: Most of My Photos are of Swatches

Madrona (numbered)

Madrona was a lot of fun this year (as expected), but I don't have a lot of photos this time. I had two full days of classes, plus events in the evening, and then I just came back for a few hours on Sunday, so I didn't have a lot of time to think about photos, or to take them. But I'll run the mostly-swatch photos in chronological order (rather than numeric order).

Photo #5, The Hotel: This is the first year that I've stayed at the Murano Hotel during the retreat, and this is my room. I had full day classes on Friday and Saturday, and even though I live close enough to drive back and forth I decided that I'd stay over the one night. The room was very comfortable, the staff was great, and they only charged me for one day of parking even after I told them that I would be parking for the whole second day. I wasn't really sure what to expect (last year, they were still renovating much of the hotel and it was a mess), but I will definitely try to stay there again next year. I wish that I lived in a room that looked like that.

Photos #2, 8 & 9, Lucy Neatby's Even Cooler Socks: My Friday class was "Even Cooler Socks" with Lucy Neatby. We started with a tubular cast-on that was much more intuitive than the methods I've used before, and also involved my first ever successful crochet chain provisional cast on. I love tubular edges, but they're usually so fiddley that I skip them--this method felt much more straightforward. You can see the edge on photo #9, which also features a striped quilted pattern that can be used for a strong heel flap, and a twined chain bind off, which is just cool looking. We knit a short-row garter stitch heel that does not involve picking up wraps or excessive counting, and we knit a sideways garter cuff and used a "no kitchener instructions" method of grafting together the ends.

I really enjoyed this class, especially seeing the techniques up on the big screen. Lucy's DVDs illustrate many of the techniques we used, so she projected videos of the tricky parts and talked us through them. This was very useful--the class was reasonably large, and having an easily visible visual aid made a big difference. Many of the techniques we used are part of Lucy's Fiesta Socks (Rav Link) pattern, so I've started a pair of those.

Photo #7, Cat Bordhi's Friday Evening Talk: The talk featured a skit illustrating how yarn may have been made and knit in pre-historic times. This is the Yarn Harlot as a cavewoman inventing finger knitting. This talk was 100% pure knitting entertainment gold, and not just the skit--Cat's a very inspiring speaker with a LOT to say.

Photo #4, Yarn: I don't even want to discuss how much yarn I bought this year, I came home with a lot more than I intended. For instance, I've got a sweater's worth of yarn on the way from Black Water Abbey. I'm excited about the yarn, but I had planned to check out their booth but NOT to buy sweater yarn until I've finished one of the sweaters I have in hibernation. But I won a door prize (yippee!) gift certificate for their booth, and it covered about a quarter of the cost, so it made sense to order it now. I ended up with some great yarn (the yarn above is from Blue Moon Fiber Arts), but there were a few things I brought home that I probably didn't need (like more needles). I am hereby implementing a yarn moratorium until at least April 1, with a couple of exceptions for yarn that I've been planning to buy that is only available in March, or that will be purchased with a Christmas gift card. And really, I might rethink that March yarn altogether.

Photos #1, 3, and 6, Jean Wong's Fine Finishing Techniques: More tubular finishing, but this time it was cast offs. Jean showed us how to use a tubular cast off for 1x1 rib and 2x2 rib in any number of different configurations--when you're knitting flat, when you're knitting in the round, when you're knitting a piece that will be seamed, etc. It was very detailed work, and a little brain scrambling, but it's really something that I think is worth doing (except on Swatch #5, which nearly sent me over the edge). Jean brought several sample sweaters, and the tubular finishes look just lovely. We also covered Japanese short rows (very neat looking, and no wraps), joining a shoulder seam, and weaving in ends in the middle of a row with no gap (very handy). Most of these techniques are related to sweater knitting, which I really don't do much of, but it's easy to see how these can be applied to smaller projects.

Event Without Photo #1, Elsebeth Lavold's talk at the Banquet: Elsebeth's talk was very interesting, she discussed how she became a knitting designer, her work with Viking Knits, and her plans to research the use of knotwork motifs in other (non-Nordic) cultures. The food was better than expected--the choices are always salmon or vegetarian meals, and this has kept me from attending the banquet until this year. I'm a picky eater, I chose what was for me the lesser of two evils (the vegetarian meal), and reminded myself that I could always pick up a sandwich on the way home. I was expecting over-cooked pasta, or slimey tofu, but instead the meal was a mushroom risotto that was genuinely tasty, and not too mushroomy. The meal was somewhat beside the point, of course, but I would have been embarassed to just pick at my food at a table full of strangers.

Event Without Photo #2, Fair Isle Class Reunion: On Sunday, Janine Bajus arranged a get-together of students who had taken her color class at Madrona or her three day class last summer. Although nobody showed up with a completed sweater (which would have made me cry), it's got me thinking about next steps for my long-forsaken swatches. I think I need to get organized again, and try to make some progress on these. Maybe next year, I'll have a hat to bring for show and tell. Or maybe at least another swatch!

It's really nice that today is President's Day, and I've been able to lounge around a bit today instead of getting right back to the office. I do have a few things that I need to take care of today (unpacking, catch up on e-mails, make sure I'm prepared for my week or at least tomorrow), and it's going to be hard to get back to the non-knitting regular world. But I've got a lot of inspiration (and new yarn) to fall back on!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Panic on the Streets of London, Panic on the Streets of Birmingham

O.K., it's 7pm on Thursday, and I have to leave for Madrona in about 12 hours. I know that it's only about 20 minutes away, but I've still got quite a number of things to do before bedtime (but not homework, yeah!), like spend some time on Facebook's Pet Society, pack some clothes, and thank E__ for sending (sorry, single) me AWESOME Valentine's Day chocolates. In any case, this post might not be as comprehensive, readable, or spell-checked as well as I might like, but I'm afraid that if I wait until after Madrona I'll skip it altogether.

Last weekend, I took Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Knits: Creating Cables class at Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum. I snuck in as a last minute substitute, and I'm really glad that I went. I've knit a number of cabled projects over the years, and I'm pretty comfortable with them, but it turns out that there is a LOT to learn about cables. We spent the morning talking about Elsebeth's work designing with Viking cables, which are inspired by artifacts from the Viking Age, and Elsebeth gave us a tour of her work that is now on exhibit at the Museum. We worked a small cable from a chart, then applied the cable principles she taught us to a chart-free cable based on a drawing. Then I attempted an interlocking cable, that I didn't get very far on but turned out sort of interesting anyway. Here's those three swatches:


One thing that is interesting to me is the way increases are added to start the cable, and stitches are decreased at the end of the cable to compensate for the fabric pulling in. I didn't block this as perfectly as I could have, but it really doesn't pull in for the cable. It's also neat that the motifs are suspended in the reverse stockinette--they just emerge from the background, without the need for vertical or horizontal connections. Neat!!!!

The afternoon was all about trying out our own cables. Based on my experience with the cable on the far right hand (which doesn't follow the rules, and only approaches (rather than achieves) the intended result), I decided to go for something asymmetrical. If you're not going for symmetry, then you don't have to worry about symmetry. However, you still have to worry about the limitations of the technique (pointy starts, for instance), and the results might still not be ready for a giant project:


The top swatch was my in-class attempt, with my detailed, work-of-art showing what I was going for (highlighted in orange for better visibility). The swatch itself is somewhat different--pointier, and also even wobblier than my lame doodle. I kind of like it though--it's unrefined, to be sure, but I think it shows some potential.

After I got home from class, I decided that I should try a simpler version, and actually chart it out. The chart is flawed in that I didn't map out the increases and decreases, and clearly there's not enough space between the bottom edge and the cable that lines it. But I still kind of like it, and I look forward to exploring these types of cables further. I wish that I'd also taken Elsebeth's mitered cables class the day before--I saw some of the work that people had done for the class, and it was amazing.

I think that I have accurately represented my enthusiasm for this class, without even having to mention that Elsebeth is a great teacher and that she was wearing a sweater that I wanted to start knitting immediately (unfortunately, the pattern's not out yet). However, just in case I'm not being totally clear, I bought her Viking Knits book and a hat & neckwarmer pattern she designed for the Nordic Heritage museum, and I stopped on the way home from a full day class to buy the yarn for it, and cast on as soon as I finished the swatch above.

Whew! Next up--dispatches from Madrona (or more likely, from home after I get back and recover from Madrona).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pink Swatches are Taking Over!

Madrona Swatches

Finishing requires a lot of swatching

This past week has been incredibly busy, and the next couple of weeks look like they'll be more or less the same. I'm not sure why I always forget how one day it's New Year's and I'm sooooo glad that the holidays are over, and the next day it's mid-February and my schedule is jam-packed with both work and non-work stuff. It's the non-work stuff that throws the biggest wrench into the works, because it eliminates the buffer that I usally have to take care of things that I haven't been able to get to during the week (laundry, anyone?) or to get organized for the next week. I'm not really complaining, because I could opt NOT to do some of the things on the schedule--for instance, I added a full day knitting class (Elsebeth Lavold at the Nordic Heritage Museum) to my weekend schedule on Thursday, even though my week had already been really, really, really long. I'll write more about the class (which I LOVED) once my swatches are dry and photographed. Maybe I'm just a little cranky because Frieda woke me up at 4:30am, which is very early for her and even earlier for me.

So! What's up next? Next weekend is the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat, and I'm taking a couple of classes that feel like they're on the opposite sides of the brain. I'm taking Lucy Neatby's "Even Cooler Socks", which I expect to be fun and creative and inspiring, and Jean Wong's "Fine Finishing Techniques", which I expect to improve my skills in my weakest area of knitting. I'm never quite sure which seaming technique to use when, and I no longer have a great reference book for guidance. Remember my "Baby Yours" sweater? I put it into hibernation rather than finish it, and now it won't fit the baby it was intended to fit. I'm hoping that Jean Wong's finishing class will help me finally get this done, before I lose the yarn that I need for the button band. As you can see in the photo, there's a lot of swatching required for this class--eleven swatches in total. I hope that I did them right--as I was working on them, I was acutely aware that there are different ways to interpret instructions, and although I am pretty confident when choosing a direction for a project, it's a lot harder to be sure that I'm doing what's correct when I'm not sure what will be done with the swatches. Here's hoping that I'm not re-knitting them during lunch!