March 2006 Archives

Failure to Communicate

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So Little to Show for Several Hours of Work

This picture really fails to communicate almost anything about the upscaled Dragon Scale socks. I hope that at least the barest outline of scales is visible in the picture. The colorway I chose (to be man friendly) defies all attempts at photography. Unfortunately, it's also subtle when you are looking directly at these socks. For the record, it's Socks that Rock (Light) in the Beryl colorway. I'm not sure yet whether it's the variagation in the yarn, the color of the yarn,. or the fact that I have downsized the scales to create a 20 stitch repeat, although my suspicions lie mostly with the former two explanations. I may try knitting the pattern flat with a solid, lighter colored yarn if things don't get a bit better as I get farther along -- just to be sure I'm not leading anyone astray. I was considering ripping these again, but so far I've only got about 2.5" of sock top and I don't want to make any rash decisions before I've given the pattern more time to play out. I am beginning to think that Claudia's orange Dragon suggestion from yesterday might have been a better option than what I chose, but I know for a fact that the intended recipent would probably reject orange Dragons, no matter how lovely the pattern turned out -- and so far, he is happy with these, and they fit him. And a sock that might get worn is a happy sock.

I used the same process that I used to upscale the original stitch pattern for the first pair of socks to downscale the pattern for this pair. I had originally hoped to just use 3 intervals of the original pattern (78 stitches being not so bad given how this pattern pulls in a bit) but I found it impossible to center things so that I could get a nice design over both the heel and the toe. The down-scaled (no pun intended) pattern has a 20 stitch interval and this sock uses 4 intervals.

Over ~40 stitches on bamboo US 1's (2.25 mm) I'm getting right around 4.25" of sock. When I did the same thing on US 1.5's (2.5 mm) I got about 4.5" of sock. I suspect that dropping down another needle size (US 0's/2.0 mm) would get it very close to 40 stitches to 4". So that should give anyone knitting the sock a fair amount of latitude in the sock sizing with the same yarn just by changing the needle size. I've tried the cuff out on my husband (who is a pretty standard man's size 10.5) and it fits just fine and doesn't cut off his circulation. So I hope that this pattern will mean that there are dragons for everyone -- at least everyone of adult size. I'll leave the exercise of creating a child-sized sock to someone else.

I'm also pleased with the way that the cuff and the pattern combine. The garter stitch gets a little wavy, but not so wavy as to disturb the manly creature that lives in my house.

I don't have a good ETA for completion of the first sock -- it takes a while to traverse the rows with the decreases on them. I'd love to have the leg part finished by the weekend. So far, I've got 3 pattern repeats to 2 inches. I'm going to need to do about 5 more before it's time to turn the heel. I'm only going to work about 6" of leg on these socks, otherwise I won't have a pattern done before Christmas. And, I promise, if the first sock comes out well, I'll write up the pattern for both sizes before I take on the second sock.

4 Ounces of Corriedale Yarn

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I've been doing a little happy dance ever since I got my 4 ounces of natural Corriedale spun and plied. I really enjoyed spinning this fiber and there's always something exciting about finishing a project, even when it's a small project. After plying my yarn, I always like to give it a bath to help set the twist and to release any the fiber's been holding onto. I wish I had thought to take a before picture, but to be honest, I didn't think that this yarn really was that dirty. But one dunk into some hot water and Eucalan and it became clear that the fiber wasn't as clean as I thought. The water got rather grey and the wool brightened up noticeably. To help get my yarn along the path to drying, I like to roll it in a cotton towel (it always seems like cotton loves to suck water away from wool). After the first bath, I had some pretty dirty looking marks on the white towel so I dunked it back into a second Eucalan bath and got a second sink full of dirty water. This time, however, it didn't get the towel dirty, so I figured that it had had enough bathing for one day.

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4 ounces of spun, plied and washed Corriedale yarn

It's impossible to capture in a photo, but this yarn not only got cleaner, it got sproingier and softer. I love picking it up and squeezing it -- all 570 or so yards of it! (I haven't done a wpi calculation yet, but it looks to be somewhere between sport and DK weight). It's resiliant and I just can't get over how springy and bouncy it is. Of course, I had to make John pet and squeeze the yarn, too. This yarn is almost soft enough to wear against the skin, so much so that John thought it might be made up into a scarf.

I didn't think it was possible for me to be so in love with basic natural colored wool, but I am. So far, this is probably the best thing I have spun. Corriedale sheep get a big gold star in my book.

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Corriedale Yarn Up Close

No post of this kind would be complete (at least not on my blog) without a closeup. Just like feeling the yarn, this picture makes me happy. This yarn is clearly handspun, but still has a very nice, even quality to it. More happy dancing on my part.

Now it's just a matter of figuring out what it should become. Should it go with me to my Indigo dyeing class at the Fold? Should it become the foundation for my sheepy sampler blanket and remain in it's natural form? I just don't know. Maybe I'll just keep it on my desk to touch and squeeze whenever I'm not feeling so happy. I've said it a bunch of times, but I do love to spin. And you know, that big ol' plying head for my Lendrum just rocks my world!

Back to the Dragon Socks

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Process or Product? I go back and forth on the kind of knitter that I am or think I want to be. Usually I put myself in the product camp. I hate to rip. When I rip, it feels like I've just wasted time, and time for me is both the least and most valuable thing I have. When I try to design something, I always want to knit the minimum amount to make a decision about where to go. In programming speak, I want to "fast fail" a project -- if something is going to go wrong, I want to terminate the process at the earliest possible point so that I can try something else or start the program again.

But the problem with desiging something is that fast fail is not always a good strategy. Sometimes what you're working on really has to take shape before you can make a good decision. Trying to make that decision too early may lead to failing something that was really a success. Which brings me to my current design project -- the bigger size dragon scale socks. (Which is actually sort of a funny thing to call it, because while the sock overall is bigger, the scales on the sock are smaller). I was thinking that in spite of the work I had done to figure out a bunch of things, that it just wasn't going to work out well, that the scales would be non-distinct and it was just going to be a lot of work for not much payoff.

I was really close to ripping.

But then I picked up the first pair of socks and realized that what makes them interesting is the all over pattern. When you look at the whole sock you get the sense of scales. If you just look at one or two intervals, you don't see anything at all. But because the scales are so much bigger relative to the sock, it was easy to see the pattern take shape and become interesting fairly quickly. It took less time and effort for me to judge the overall direction a success.

So I decided that I needed to grit my teeth and not give up on the pattern with the smaller scales. Today I knit two more intervals from the last picture (for a total of 5). Suddenly, I started to feel a real sock starting to take shape with a pattern that made me happy. And the lighting obliged as well, and I was able to get a picture that conveyed the spirit of the pattern and the sock.

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Green Dragon Scales in Evidence

Since that photo, I've gotten another interval and a half done and the more I knit, the more I like them. I need to do 9 intervals to get to 6" (these aren't going to be tall socks, otherwise I probably won't have enough yarn to complete them) so I'm only 2 and a half intervals away from getting to the turning the heel part. I'm looking forward to that because just like the first pair of Dragon Scale socks, I want to do some neat detail work on the heel and the toe. Seeing how my current plan for that will turn out is part of the adventure.

My goal is to do the first sock, write up the pattern, and then do the second sock with the pattern to make sure I've written it right. If I'm lucky, I'll at least get the heel turned by the end of the weekend. The instep part of the sock should go faster because the pattern is only on the top and it's plain stockinette on the bottom. So I'm hoping that means that I might be writing a pattern the weekend after this coming weekend.

So, please, share your opinions. Do you like the way the scale pattern looks? The intended recipient of the socks does and at this point that's good enough for me to continue, but I always love to hear more than one opinion since I want the pattern to be for a broader audience.

Memories of a Furry Friend

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Sydney (left) and Mercutio (right) circa 1999

In the spring of 1996 I had been on my own for about a year. The previous spring I had split up with my ex-fiance, rented an apartment of my own, and did a series of stupid things as I tried to get used to being single woman. I had always had pets in my life, in fact, the ex and I had two cats, but when we split he agreed that they were "my" cats. However, it took me a while to find a place of my own and get settled, so Sebastian and Rowena went to stay at my parents house and went from being my cats to being my parents cats. Which was, in the long run, probably the best thing for them given the unsettled year that I had.

But by the following spring I was entering what I was hoping was my last year of graduate school, had gotten comfortable with being alone in my apartment, but I missed having my cats. And my mother made it pretty clear that the two that had come to live at her house had found a permanent home. It just so happened that at about this same time, the good friend who taught me to knit also split up with her fiance. Unlike me, her ex got to keep their two cats while she came and stayed with me while trying to find a new place of her own, and she missed her furry friends. So I decided the two of us would go down to the Anti-Cruelty Society (an animal shelter in downtown Chicago) to see if there were any kittens available for adoption.

As luck would have it, there was a matched pair (littermates) of cream colored tabbies that were supposedly a bit over a year old (I say supposedly, because I think the estimate was wrong... if I had to guess, based on their subsequent growth, these guys were probably 6-8 months old, tops). I definitely wanted a pair because I was in the lab a lot and I didn't want a solo cat to be lonely all the time. I had been hoping to have the small cute fuzzy kitten experience, but these guys were available and the small fuzzy kittens were not. And these tabbies were also incredibly friendly and interactive. They were also both boys, which appealed to me, because I have a fondness for large cats and I thought I had a better chance getting large cats with male cats.

So home with me they came -- after a quick snipping procedure. And they proceeded to enter psycho exploration mode (which also convinced me that they were younger than advertised and reminded me why, after I adopt a kitten, I always swear that I am only going to adopt adult cats forever after) and they followed me around everywhere. It was almost impossible to be separated from these cats. And my apartment felt a bit homier.

It took me a while to name them. Sydney's name came one night while I was sitting in front of my computer using ntalk (think of it as a very bare bones UNIX precursor to current IM clients) to an internet friend in Australia. My computer was in the same room as the dining room and my computer chair sat between my desk and dining room table. Sydney jumped up on the dining room table and put his front paws on the back of my chair and nudged me. Since I was typing online about Sydney, Australia, I took this as a sign that he was telling me what his name should be. (Mercutio's name comes from Romeo and Juliet; Mercutio was Romeo's sidekick and my Mercutio was Sydney's sidekick).

John came into my life about a month after the cats did. Almost from the beginning he was John's best friend. He's "helped" John with almost every computer building project he's ever worked on and always had a priviledged place in John's lap. He had an uncanny knack for going places he wasn't supposed to go -- definitely our "adventure kitty". Before we got Marco (a.k.a. "The Beezle) Syd was the cat who played with the laser pointer and went nuts when given catnip. He also liked to play fetch with what became his favorite toy -- this squishy beach ball toy about the size of a baseball that he could carry in his mouth. Everytime he caught it he would make the strangest yowling noise, but he was clearly pleased with his accomplishment. He was a water snob. Water out of the tap wasn't good enough. He needed water out of our refrigerator's purified water tap (unless he could drink directly from the faucet -- somehow it was better that way). He was much more accepting of Marco than Mercutio was even though Marco harrassed him mercilessly when Marco was a kitten. He had his issues. What animal doesn't? But overall was a good guy, friendly, loving and a little bit mischevious, just like a cat is supposed to be.

On Saturday, after a drive in which John sat in the backseat of the car and held him and his favorite toy all the way to the vet, we said a final good bye to our Sydney. We were with him to his last seconds. After all the love he'd given us in his 10 years with us, we just didn't want him to be alone at the end. And even though we knew it was the right thing to do, it really didn't make it any easier.

Good-bye little friend. You didn't deserve the bad break you got. I know wherever you are now, there's an unlimited supply of kitty treats, the most wonderfully potent catnip, someone always leaves the faucet on for you to drink from and there's never a shortage of warm sunny patches to take naps in. We'll always remember you.

To everyone who shared their encouraging thoughts for Syd with us, we did really appreciate everything we heard and learned. But he was much too far along in the course of disease for us to do much for him. For everyone out there with a cat, I encourage you to keep an eye on any changes in urinary behavior your cat may display. We wished we'd seen some of the warning signs earlier than we did. It wouldn't have changed the ultimate result, but it might have gotten us some more quality time with Sydney.

I've turned off the comments on this one. Sort of my way of giving Syd a little moment of silence and remembrance. I'll be back tomorrow with happier things.

11 Pairs of Socks!

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I promised happier stuff for today, and if there's anything happier in knitting than socks, I just don't know what it is! This evening I finally got my Family Sock Challenger list up to date. My apologies for taking so long on updating the list with new names and new socks. I hope I've gotten everyone who emailed me. My plan is to update this list once a week, and share everyone's progress and pictures and links to the finished projects. Feel free to leave me a comment here or drop me an email.

Here's the updated list of participants:

Annie
Socks for son Luke finished!

Carole

Caryn

Heatherly
Socks for Baby finished!

Janna

Lora
Opal Dreamcatcher Socks for Mom finished!
Jaywalkers for Sister started.

Maggie

Maud
Regia Silk Socks for Her Son

Michelle H-K

Michelle K
Blue Socks for Daughter Kathryn finshed!
Jacquard Socks for Daughter Lindsey finished!
Starting green socks for Son Ian

Hedgemom Nancy

Just Knitting Around Nancy

Polly
Twin Jaywalkers for her Twin Boys finished!

Tish

Socks for 3rd daughter finished!

Traci

Wendy DG

Welcome to Carole, Caryn, Maud, both Nancys, Polly and Wendy! I'm glad to have you all knitting along with me. Quite a few new pairs of socks entered the picture, too! Heatherly finished socks for her baby, Maud finished some gorgeous socks for her son out of Regia Silk (click on the link above to check them out), Michelle K finished some Jacquard socks for her daughter Lindsey and Polly just polished off two pairs of Jaywalkers for her twin boys. That's definitely a lot of socks!

Michelle K also finished a pair of blue socks for her daughter Kathryn last week and she sent me some pictures to show off both her daughters and their new socks. I particularly liked this one:

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Happy New Blue Daughter Socks

Clearly this woman is happy about her new socks. It's hard for me not to smile when I look at this photo.

As to me, I'm making little bits of progress here and there. The green Dragon Scale sock has passed the heel and I've got my Dad's UMich socks a bit past the ribbed cuff.

And there's always room for one more! So if you want to knit along, let me know. I'm beginning to think that I should come up with a button for this... just to give y'all a little more flash for your efforts.

Pearl's Pleats

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While I wasn't an Olympic Knitter, I was knitting a lot during the Olympics. The Pearl Buck Swing Jacket project was ideal because it was mostly stockinette so I could watch and knit. Both hands and eyes were happy. Today I completed the final piece of the jacket: the back. The back and it's details are the reason to knit this project. And by details, I mean the interesting pleated panel in the center of the back of the jacket.

Here's the jacket back before the bind-off row that helps to create the pleats:

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Pearl, Unpleated

Note on each side of the design you can see a vertical column of elongated knit stitches and just beyond that on each side there is a groove that also runs the length of the back panel. These are the "fold" lines for the pleats.

Here's the jacket back after the bind-off row that creates the pleats:

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Pearl, Pleated

The groove folds in, the knit column folds out and the back is pleated! Pretty clever if you ask me.

And now that I've completed all the garment pieces, I can say that at least for the 36" size there are no mistakes in the pattern. However, I did find one thing that I thought I would point out as a warning. The schematic for the back piece with the pleat has the final measurements for the back as if the pleat was stretched out (as in the top photo). This isn't really a problem in and of itself, except that after you've bound off and it is time to block the garment, you don't have any expected measurements for the back with the pleat gathered in. It's not impossible to figure out, but the schematic really should have come with before and after pleating measurements so that it's possible to know what the designer was expecting after the piece was blocked.

It's also a problem if you are like me and you use the schematics, rather than the suggested sizes in the intro, to determine how big a garment really is. The top of the back is 20" without the pleat, but 15" with the pleat (that's the same as the length of the bottom of the yoke piece). That's a pretty significant difference and it has a major impact on helping to determine what size is the right size. I made the assumption before I started the pattern that those measurements with the schematic were the finished measurements, meaning that the pleat was pleated. I think (I hope) I will still be okay on sizing, I just won't have quite as much ease as I was expecting. If you're working on this pattern or want to do this pattern, use the bottom width of the yoke to determine the distance between the shoulder blades.

The back is now all pinned down to my blocking board and relaxing after getting a cold mist bath. It should be interesting to see how the garment construction goes. This is the first time I've made a sweater with any kind of yoke.

Sock Collection

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I've been contemplating socks a lot lately. And doing laundry.

What do the two have to do with each other? Not much, other than the fact that while I was folding said laundry I realized that I had just washed and dried most of my sock collection and since it was all arrayed in front of me, it seemed like a good time for a picture.

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Tales from My Sock Drawer: A Story in Muted Colors

Something about taking pictures really brings things into focus that I hadn't noticed before. In this case, I had been under the impression that my sock collection was brightly colored. But as I looked this picture over, I realized that my socks might be multi-colored, but there's not a whole lot of bright vibrant color. Apparently, I knit bright colored socks, but those are the socks I knit for swaps or to give away. How strange. And I had never noticed it before. But this collection is stunningly void of anything like a vibrant red, orange or yellow. It's as if I went to the colorwheel and consciously selected cool colors. And as I looked around my room and in my closet, I discovered that this type of color collecting also extends into my wardrobe (although I do have a couple of red turtleneck sweaters, they're definitely outnumbered by the grey, black and brown garments). If I didn't know I was a Midwesterner before, it became painfully clear on Tuesday morning. Either that, or my quest for guy-friendly sock yarn has seriously damaged my perception of what "brightly colored" means.

Now the clothes, well, I can live with that. Orange and yellow next to my skin are just not a good thing. Cool colors and colors with blue undertones go best with my skin. But socks are not meant to be worn next to the face and should give me the freedom to go wild with some bright happy colors. And, of course, when I looked into my sock yarn stash, the whole bright color thing doesn't get better. Not surprisingly, the only bright vibrant colored sock yarns are ones that have been given to me by other people (the orange and purple and yellow striped Opal socks were part of one of my trades with Emma!). Clearly, when it comes to socks, I need to follow the Apple mantra and apply a little "Think Different".

As a girl who believes that there is no such thing as too much sock yarn, I'm always looking for something new and interesting when it comes to socks -- and I've got a lot of time to look as I work away on my Family Sock Challene socks .With that in mind, I'd love to know about everyone's favorite bright colored sock yarn. What companies produce your favorite colorways? What colorways make you think of happy summer afternoons or bright spring mornings? What sock yarn makes you happy when you just look at it -- even if it hasn't yet become socks?

Green Dragon Heels

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I just have too many projects that I want to work on right now. I'm trying to rotate through all of them, but most of my time is being divided between the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket and John's green Dragon Scale socks. I've shifted most of my energies today to the sock since I would like to start putting a pattern together. Right now, I think I'm about 2 pattern repeats before I start decreasing for the toe. So I'm making okay progress and still have a fighting chance of getting a good first pattern draft over the weekend.

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Working on the Instep

The soon to be owner of this sock has been an excellent sport about the design process, too. Every couple of repeats I make him try it on so I can see if it fits correctly or needs to have the shaping modified. So far, it's working out well for a man's size 10.5. And I am also fairly pleased about how the short-row heel came out (the side with the knit wraps is neater than the side with the purl wraps, but it's definitely better than most of my earlier attempts) and now that they look nice, I'm finding that I like the process of making short row heels better.

Speaking of heels, here's the detail on the heel of this sock:

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Green Dragon Scale Heel Detail

Like the sock with the larger scales, I carry the center scale pattern down into the main part of the heel. This is something that you could always omit if you didn't like the detailing, but I think it gives the sock a little extra oomph but, at the same time, isn't too fussy for a guy sock.

The Sock Challenge Continues

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It's been a big week for the Family Sock Challenge!

Annie
Socks for son Luke finished!

Carole

Caryn

Heatherly
Socks for Baby finished!

Janna
Working on Socks for Mom

Jess
Almost finished with socks for Grandmother

Kristi
Socks for Hubby Finished
Socks for Dad Finished
Started on Socks for Sister-in-Law

Lora
Opal Dreamcatcher Socks for Mom finished!
Jaywalkers for Sister started.

Maggie

Maud
Regia Silk Socks for Her Son

Michelle H-K

Michelle K
Blue Socks for Daughter Kathryn finshed!
Jacquard Socks for Daughter Lindsey finished!
Starting green socks for Son Ian

Hedgemom Nancy

Just Knitting Around Nancy

Nathalie
Socks for Mom Finished
Socks for Daughter Finished
Socks for Daughter to Be Finished
Started socks for Mother in Law
Polly
Twin Jaywalkers for her Twin Boys finished!
Socks for Husband Finished
Jaywalker Socks for Husband Started

Tish
3rd daughter finished!

Traci

Wendy DG
Opal Socks Finished for Sock Partner Molly
Sockotta Socks Started for Sister-in-Law Mollie

I want to welcome a few new sock knitters: Jess, Kristi and Nathalie have joined the project -- all of them have finished or are almost finished with a pair of socks. Polly and Wendy have been busy, too, and have both finished a pair of socks and are already started on their next pairs.

Where am I? Well, I've finished the first of John's green Dragon Scale socks (more on that tomorrow) and I've started my dad's socks:

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Socks for Dad in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock "UMich" Colorway

I'm thinking I might have to make him sing "Hail to the Victors" before I give them to him.

In sum total, we're up to 18 pairs of finished socks for our family and friends. Everybody knitting along, please feel free to "check in" in the comments and let me know your latest progress.

Cochineal Corriedale

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With the beginning of May fast approaching, it occurred to me that it might be good to finish spinning some of the fiber that I had bought the May before. I actually have quite a bit of it still in un-spun form. Since I just finished spinning the un-dyed Corriedale that my mom and dad gave me for my birthday, I thought it would be a good time to finish spinning the cochineal dyed Corriedale that I bought from Handspun by Stefania, which was the first stuff I tried out right after I purchased my first drop spindles. Cochineal is a lovely natural dye that can create deep pinkish-red colors. The roving I picked appealed to me because it was a three color roving: a deep red-pink, an intermediate red-pink and a very pale pink, in vertical stripes (i.e. striped in the same direction the fiber is drafted). I spun some of it on my drop spindle, but after I met with better success spinning my Cormo/silk blend and some Blue Faced Leicester, I put the cochineal-dyed Corriedale away. I liked spinning fiber I didn't have to fight with so much.

After spinning the un-dyed Corriedale, I felt that I must not have given the cochineal dyed Corriedale a fair shake. So I pulled it back out and decided to see how it would spin up on my wheel. I like spinning it much better with the wheel, but It still felt much harsher to my fingers than the undyed Corriedale did. I believe that Claudia commented, when I first broguth this up) that there can be a lot of sheep-to-sheep variation when it comes to the texture and feel of Corriedale. Liz also mentioned that sometimes the chemicals and the handling that are used in the dyeing process can change the "hand" of the fiber. So I was curious what would happen after I finished plying and gave the yarn a little beauty bath in some warm water and Eucalan.

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350 Yards of Cochineal Dyed Corriedale

The bath had a positive impact on the yarn. It definitely is a lot springier feeling after it's soak. But it doesn't really come close to the undyed Corriedal for sheer cushiness. It reminds me more of the Blue Faced Leicester that I have spun than it does the natural Corriedale.

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Not So Neat Up Close

I didn't really spin this quite as well as I did the natural Corriedale. There's a great deal of variation in the diameter of the yarn. It probably ranges between sock weight and DK, though it averages close to a sport weight, I think. The close up shows that my spinning was a bit uneven. Some of this was because I found it difficult to consistently draft this roving. But I did learn something from spinning this fiber: it's very important to put enough twist into a single. This seems obvious, but it's very possible to put in enough twist so that the single will draw onto the bobbin, but not enough twist so that it will not pull apart when plying or when starting to spin again after joining new fiber. And when spinning fine singles, it's a pretty fine line between a nice soft single and something with the hand of garden twine.

What's next up on my wheel? I'm thinking it's time for something a little softer on my fingers. Maybe that blue/green Cormo/silk that I thought I was going to spin up on my drop spindle? Hmmm.....

Down-Scaled Dragon

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Thank goodness for better weather in Chicago this weekend! As a result, I got some really nice pictures of the first finished "down-scaled" dragon scale sock. While I might be willing to suffer for my handknits, my male sock model isn't willing to head outdoors when it's cold.

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Down-Scaled Dragon Sock in Socks that Rock

This is the completed sock. It, like the previous dragon scale sock, has a short-row heel and a grafted toe. The leg of the sock is about 6" tall, and has a garter stitch cuff. The cuff helps to stabilize the top (otherwise they would probably roll too much for a guy) and to keep the opening stretchier. I think this picture with the sock being worn really shows off the pattern the way it is supposed to be (the picture of the heel below is even better) -- the bars aren't nearly as prominent when the sock is stretched across an actual foot. The sock is a bit less snug than I had intended for it to be, but, as it turns out, it fits John exactly the way he wants it to, and he commented that the textured pattern gave it a more airy feeling that thought it would. So you don't need to worry that wearing this sock is going to be like wearing scale mail.

Just about the only bad part about this sock is the amount of yarn it takes. For a US 10.5 man's sock, I'm definitely going to need more yarn than is in the one skein of Socks that Rock (I got out my scale, did some weighing and did some math and got the result that I expected by didn't really want). This pattern does eat up some yarn. Good thing that there's another skein waiting for me at the Fold for me to pick up this weekend. Hopefully there will be enough left over after I finish up John's sock for me to get another pair of unpatterned socks for myself...

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Down-Scaled Dragon Toe

I was a bit worried about how the toe was going to turn out, but after seeing it on a real foot, I'm happy with the results. The smaller scale pattern made it a lot easier to carry more of the pattern farther down the toe.

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Down-Scaled Dragon Heel

This is probably my favorite picture. This heel detail just makes get a happy little smile every time I see it. And, according to my sock model, it is not a problem for those of a manly persuasion. It almost makes me want to go out and buy a pair of Birkenstocks. Almost.

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Up-Scaled and Down-Scaled Dragon Socks Together

Not exactly a matched pair, but I hope this pictures demonstrates the differences in the looks of the socks.

I'm working on writing up the pattern now. It will include both sizes and all the charts you need for the toes and the heels. Patterns always take me longer than I think they will -- I forget how long it takes to make sure that all the instructions make sense. And I like to add information as to how the pattern can be customized to meet different sizes and needs. But it will be coming soon. I promise.

Transformations

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It's time to turn this:

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Blue Green Hand-dyed Cormo and Tussah Silk

Into this:

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Cormo and Silk on the Bobbin

This is about the finest I have ever spun anything. The single is so threadlike that I'm having a hard time believing that I am spinning it and it's not breaking apart, as I don't feel I'm putting an insane amount of twist into it. I think the strength comes from the longer and stronger silk fibers in this Cormo/silk blend. It's a bit hard for me to gauge how even my spinning is when it's this fine. I think I'll have a much better idea after it's plied. Even at two-ply, it's going to be a fine weight yarn -- the final product will definitely be a candidate for a lace project.. But getting to plying is going to take a while. Spinning this fine takes a lot more time and attention than any of my previous yarns have -- when I draft, I draw out just a litle bit at a time -- less than an inch -- so my drafting hand is getting a workout. But the result, so far is good, it still feels soft and just a bit squishy to the touch on the bobbin. So it may be fine, but I haven't turned it into cormo and silk twine, which, I think, is a good thing.

Pearl Gets A Collar

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Slowly but surely I've been working my way through finishing the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket. Unusually enough for me, I've been proceeding through each part of the finishing work slowly and with care. First I connected the yoke to the back piece. I counted rows and stitches across and figured out exactly what ratio I needed to have to create a smooth seam and for the yoke to stretch across the back without bunching.

After that, I had to rest for a bit. All that thinking hard about a seam takes a lot out of a girl.

Then it was time to sew the fronts and sides. Fortunately, the math for connecting the yoke to the back worked equally well for connecting the yoke to the tops of the fronts. Then, I very carefully mattress stitched the side seams together. This seaming experience did teach me a lesson. Normally, I'll mattress stitch and pick up two bars on each side. For this sweater, I picked up only one stitch at a time on each side. This helped to minimize any bunching and the seam feels a bit more flexible to me. It also took twice as long.

But I haven't been in much of a hurry on this project. This jacket, in the yarn I am making it in, is really meant for spring and fall. With the bracelet length sleeves (probably a bit shorter on me) it won't be wearable over my normal winter turtlenecks with long sleeves. Short sleeve shirts and tank tops are going to work better. While we did have brief taste of spring last weekend, it's been pretty chilly here in Chicago -- I even saw snow flurries today out my window. So I've been taking it easy with Pearl, which has let me focus on the finishing details. I don't think I'm a sloppy finisher, but I do think that sometimes my desire to have a finished garment overwhelms my willingness to pay attention to small details.

After the fronts were attatched and side seams in place, I picked up the stitches for the collar and got that taken care of. Collars really add structure to a sweater and help me understand how the garment is going to look when finished. I find it useful to take pictures at this juncture so that I can see how the garment is going to look on me.

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Pearl from the Front

This isn't the best angle (apparently my photographer has been studying the IK photographic style a bit too much) but the fronts hang evenly and the collar sits correctly. The fronts don't roll at the edge as much as I would have expected them to, but they do roll a bit. There may be grosgrain ribbon in my future to help stabilize that edge.

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Pearl from the Back

The collar looks terrible here (I didn't realize that it wasn't standing up correctly when the picture was taken and my photographer claims "I figured it was supposed to be that way" which I don't know whether to take as good or bad), so you'll have to trust me that it doesn't do that all the time. I'm pleased that the yoke doesn't look too stretched out in the vertical axis (I was worried that the weight of the back would cause it to sag in a not so good way). I'm not quite sure yet what I am going to do about the pleated back panel. I can't tell if it's misbehaving as a result of my choice of a different yarn with a much different texture and drape (the suggested Matchmaker is a much springier/squishier yarn with a little heavier feel to it) or if it's just one of those little design things that the photostylists for the magazine found a way to make look much better when they were taking pictures. I think that it may need to be tacked down in a few strategic places to make it lie correctly. Either that or I need to block the bejeezus out of it. But I suspect the tacking is the only way to get consistant behavior.

All that remains now is to seem up the sleeves and set them in. I'm not going to do anything to the pleat in back until I get that taken care of. It's been my experience that the sleeves can have an incredible structural impact on the final form of the garment, and it's always a good idea to have the entire garment together and see how it works before making any other modifications.

Will I have a new sweater on Monday? Hard to know. All of Saturday will be devoted to a trip to Marengo to do some Indigo dyeing, check out the Socks that Rock and buy a carrying back for my wheel, so I'm not sure how much acutal knitting will get done.

Old and New Obsessions

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Saturday was a big day. Such a big day, in fact, that there's too much to talk about in one post. Julie and I headed out to Marengo, Illinois to the Fold for a day of dyeing with indigo and general fibery goodness (my car tried to thwart that effort by blowing a tire just after Julie and I met up in Schaumberg, but thanks to a helpful insurance agent, a punctual tow-truck driver and the fact that Julie had a car, too, we were able to get to our ultimate destination and were only an hour or so late). Because I don't have my finished fiber photos ready yet (there's still a bit of soaking and drying that has to occur), instead of starting with the indigo dyeing, I'll start with the goodies that came home with me. Because no trip out to the Fold would be complete without some purchasing of goodies.

My big purchase was this:

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Lendrum Wheel Bag from the Bag Lady

After one trip out to Julie's house without my wheel in a protective covering, I decided that a good bag would be a good investment. As it turns out, these bags are good for both protecting the wheel and making the wheel easier to carry around, since the bag has a nice shoulder strap. The Lendrum DT isn't that heavy -- just about 13 lbs (not much heaver than some desktop replacement notebooks on the market right now!), but it is awkwardly shaped for carrying when you have a few other bags to attend to. This bag is made of a sturdy denim material and has a thick vinyl bottom.

Terry commented in my last post that I needed to "flash" any new Socks that Rock that came home with me. So here goes:

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From Left to Right: Blue Moon Socks that Rock Medium Weight, in Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Light Weight, Beryl and 2 skeins of Blue Moon Sock Candy in Ambrosia

The Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain are for me for later when I get back to brightening up my sock collection. When I asked for brighter sock yarn suggestions Liz and Lindsey both mentioned Fire on the Mountain. This yarn is incredibly vibrant and just a rainbow of color. I am in love with the beautiful contrasts of gold, red, blue and grey in the Crazy Lace Agate. The Beryl skein is so that I can finish up John's Dragon Scale socks. And the Sock Candy is so that I can have a pair of Dragon Scale socks of my own someday. They aren't quite orange, but they are as close as I could find in this yarn.

Believe it or not, the STR was not the highlight of the trip. I have fallen in love with a new motor-driven device.

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Pat Green Drum Carder

If I remember correctly, the label on this old beauty is "Patrick Green". Drum carders were never something that excited me until Saturday. I enjoy spinning, but I still really hadn't gotten to the point where I thought I would want to prepare my own fiber. A while back, though, Liz kindly sent Julie and I some small samples of some very nice washed fleeces so that we could try out some nice fibers. Julie and I are fiber prepping newbies, and we weren't quite sure how to get our little treasure trove into something that we could spin. So I emailed Toni and asked her if she new of anyone who would prepare roving from small batches of fiber. Toni invited us to bring our fiber when we came to the dyeing class and we could try out her electric drum carder.

Now I understand why people get obsessed about drum carders. It was almost magical to feed that uncarded fiber into the machine and to have fluffy bats come off the big drum. Julie and I were mezmerized by this process! And after working with it for just a short time, it was easy to imagine all the fiber and color blending possibilities it could bring into my life. I think I'm going to have to start being a very good girl now, so that I can ask Santa for one of these lovely machines for Christmas...

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Grey Coopworth Batt and Brown CVM Batt

Julie and I split the fiber in half and each of us got a nice fluffy batt of grey Coopworth and brown CVM to take home with us. There are still more samples to try in the box Liz sent us, but these two were the only two we could finish in an hour. Once I get finished spinning the first bobbin of itty bitty Cormo/silk thread that CVM is going on my wheel!

While we were working on carding our wool, we got a very special treat: the Fiddlin' Fool from Two Sock Knitters came in looking for a spinning spinning (Julie and I worked hard to be good enablers, and he now also has a Lendrum DT) and before he left he brought out his fiddle and treated all of us in the store to a lovely lilting tune. Talk about a wonderful ending to a great day!

Indigo Dyeing

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If you've come looking for pictures today, I'm afraid I'm going to leave you sorely disappointed. Yes, I did remember to bring my camera. I even had a fully charged battery and a mostly empty compact flash card. But the camera didn't come out until after the rubber gloves got put away. It was too difficult for me to be involved and be a photographer at the same time.

Julie and I got there about an hour after we were supposed to as a result of the car troubles I mentioned yesterday. The dyeing experience took place in Toni's kitchen, which was filled to the brim with women ready to learn about Indigo dyeing. By that time the dye stocks had been made, the dye pots were de-oxygenizing and the fiber had been prepped for the experience. Julie and walked in the door and were given two skeins of yarn to dye. One was a natural white and the other was a natural grey yarn (I don't know what kind of sheep either of them came from); I think the point was to see how the dye went on a white wool and how it worked in a situation that was more like overdyeing.

So before learning any of the chemistry, Julie and I got to dunk our skeins into the Indigo bath and watch the magic happen.

The interesting thing about Indigo is that under the conditions where the dyeing occurs, the dye is actually a greenish color instead of the deep blue you expect it to be. It has to be a fairly basic solution (about pH 10) and for dyeing wool a temperature of about 120 degrees Farenheit is required. And the goal is to keep the dye bath from holding too much oxygen. The yarn can only become dyed when the conditions in the dyepot are reducing ones. For a really nice series of pictures that show the set up, you might want to check out this bit that was posted on the Yarn Harlot's blog last fall.

What's so amazing, even if you have studied chemistry a long time ago, is watching that skein come out of the pot a greenish yellow color (after about 4 minutes) and change to a deep blue as it hits the air (i.e. gets exposed to the oxygen). The transformation continues as it sets for the next 20 minutes or so. And then you repeat the process as many times as you want to get the depth of color you like. Pretty easy stuff. The thing that was even more amazing than the actual dyeing process was that countertops, towels, buckets and spoons that got subjected to dye did not take up the dye at all. If you've ever played with Lanaset dyes, you know that anything they touch changes color permanently. Indigo is much more forgiving. If the reducing conditions don't exist, the dye doesn't do anything you would regret later.

After you get your yarn or fiber to the color you want to get it to, you need to let it set for 24 hours to fully oxydize. Then you rinse and dry and get to sit back and enjoy the final product.

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Left: Natural Wool, Right: Natural 50% Wool, 50% Silk

The skein on the left was the natural colored skein that Toni provided. The skein on the right was a skein of the silk/wool blend that I got from my mom for Christmas. It didn't get quite as many trips to the dye pot, so it's lighter than the other skein. The shiny quality comes from the silk. Initially, before the rinsing, I didn't much like the feel of the wool/silk skein, but now that it's washed up it has a much more pleasant hand and I really like the faded denim color. I like the darker color, too. But I have to be honest, if something is blue there's a good chance that I will like it, an denimy blues are my favorite.

What happened to the grey skein? It's still sitting in my bathtub drying and isn't yet suitable for photographing. It turned out a dark grey blue like the dark washes you see on a lot of jeans these days. I'll try to get it into a photo once it's finished drying.

All in all, if you want to try some natural dyeing, Indigo seems like a good and easy introduction to it. Over all, it's a pretty non-toxic process (at least compared to chemical dyes) and it isn't hard to monitor the dye bath and get some very lovely results. Beyond that, it's also pretty non-toxic to your kitchen (except for the smell, the thiourea that's used as a reducing agent has sulfur which creates a little bit of a vague rotten egg odor) which is a real plus if you wanted to try this with older children. Julie and I left with some dyestock of our own, and the chemicals for stocking the dyepot. You never know when you'll see a whole rash of Indigo dyeing breaking out around here now!

Shopping in Bucktown

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If you live in Chicago, you've probably heard about the boutique explosion on Damen St. in Bucktown. Bonne Marie and I decided that a little exploring was in order to see the new stores that had cropped up. Even though the weather can still only be described as blustery and cold (we saw actual snow flurries) it didn't put a chill on the enjoyment we got out of discovering some new stores and patronizing some old favorites. If you need flowers, fashion, kitsch, a custom T-shirt, jewelry, art, hip eyeware, ribbons, paper goods, handbags, funky shoes, cool things for your baby, maternity wear, fine house wares, prepared gourment foods, cigars (no, we didn't go there, but if you want them, you can find them) or lingerie, you can find it on Damen -- and that doesn't even include all the restaurants on the street!

One thing that was a favorite for both Bonne Marie and I was this little number (that we found at Climate Home, which sells some great greeting cards and a wide variety of other strange and wonderful things, including a pop-up book version of the Kama Sutra)

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Tattooed T Shirt, Blue Line, Damen Street Station

If you live in the Bucktown/Wicker Park/East Village/Ukrainian Village area, your main means of public transportation are likely to be the Damen and Chicago buses, and the Blue Line Train (which inspired the name for my first felted handbag). This T-shirt by Tattooed Tees has that vaguely touristy but mostly hip local celebration of my favorite El line and station.

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My Co-ordinates

What makes it ever so delightful is the station co-ordinates. In Chicago, all the El stations have big signs that include the name of the station and it's co-ordinates on the map grid of Chicago. 2000W, 1400N tells you that you are 20 blocks west of the east/west dividing line (State St.) and 14 blocks north of the north/south dividing line (Madison St.)
(This co-ordinate would probably be considered the very northern edge of Wicker Park instead of Bucktown, but the T-shirts that said Wicker Park didn't come in as nice a color combination). Knowing your co-ordinates is better than knowing a ZIP code or a street address if you understand how the city grid works. I so want it to get warm now, just so that I can wear this T-shirt!

Our favorite new shop was Soutache (which I think means "ribbon" in French). This place sells all sorts of wonderful embellishments. Incredible and fabulous ribbons, crocheted flowers, wooden hardware for hand bags, feather and fur (fake) tapes and feather boas, special buttons, pom pons of all sorts -- all arranged in an appetizing and engaging manner. This place almost made me wish that I knew how to sew. If you're at all crafty, I don't think you could go in there without being inspired by all the colors and textures. And shiny-thing-loving-crow that I am, I knew I wasn't going to leave empty handed.

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Knitting-Themed Ribbon

How can you not like knitting-themed ribbon? I think I am going to use the "I wonder who's knitting for me" tape when I give hand knitted gifts. I want to use it to embellish cards that provide instructions for garment maintenance. The "Knitting Instructions" tape* I have no current plans for, but I just couldn't resist it. Maybe I will try to convince my mom to help me make some small pouches for knitting gear and embellish them with it. Or maybe I'll create some needle lace and combine it with the ribbon to use as bookmarks for my knitting book collection.

We made several other stops, to Eye Spy (purveyors of very fashionable eye glasses, which will be revealed in several weeks after I have an eye appointment and get lenses ordered), Toast (where we had lunch of pancakes and french toast -- their Marscapone French toast is to die for!), C'est Moi (a small store full of French-country inspired housewares and fabrics), Shebang (which sells lovely funky handbags), the Goddess and Grocer (some of the best peanut butter cookies in the city, I think) and 4-5 clothing/jewelry stores before ending up in Filter (a wonderful coffee shop made more wonderful by the new no smoking ordinance in Chicago**) to do a little sock knitting. All in all, a most excellent day!

* note to Julie, there is a yard of this stuff with your name on it sitting next to my computer right now next time we have a little get-together, it will come live with you!

** I'm not trying to offend smokers here. In general, I have no problem with people choosing to smoke -- we all have our little vices and I'd be pretty annoyed if someone criticized me for drinking coffee or enjoying a Frontera margarita.. But I don't like the congested feeling I get, the eye irritation from my contact lenses, or the smell my clothes/yarn take on after being in a smokey room. So the smoking ban in eating establishments in Chicago has been a real blessing for me.

California Variagated Mutant

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What's my new fiber passion?

CVM

Which stands for (as you might have guessed from the title of today's post) California Variagated Mutant. CVM sheep are also Romeldales with a mutation that gives them some beautiful color patterning. For a bit more information on this breed, you can check out the American Romeldale/CVM Association. Romeldales and CVM sheep are fine wool sheep (like Merinos), that have relatively short staple length wool. They are also, as I have just learned, relatively small sheep An average CVM fleece weighs 4-6 lbs after skirting.

I want to start this off by saying that Liz is a dreadful (in a good way) enabler and I am going to hold her compeltely responsible for my developing addiction to CVM wool. In order to get a break from fine weight cormo and silk, I decided to spin up a small amount of the batt we prepared from the dark chocolate colored CVM from a sheep named Sydney. What a treat! This wool isn't quite as soft as merino, but it has incredible elasticity and I found it a lot of fun to spin and ply into this 37 yard skein:

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37 Yards of 2 Ply CVM

You know, it's kind of fun to spin up small amounts to make a little sample skein. It doesn't take very long and going through the whole process of spinning the singles, plying and setting the twist makes it possible to understand the real character of the yarn I've spun and it feels like finishing a small project. It's a bit like swatching for a sweater when you don't know quite what gauge would give you the best fabric for the project you have in your head. I didn't really spend much time worrying about the final result on this skein -- I tried to let the yarn tell me what it wanted to twist like rather than forcing it into what I wanted it to be.

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CVM Up Close and Personal

Here's a close-up perspective on what the fiber wanted to be for me. Ignore those little silver grey fibers. Those are a lesson for me about using a drum carder -- you've got to clean the drums well between fiber varieties or you will get transfer from the first one to the second one. Most of this yarn probably varies between fingering and DK weight.

Perhaps the most remarkable quality of this fiber (after it's rich color and soft hand) is it's incredible elasticity. A small demonstration:

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CVM Relaxed: 13.5" Skein
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CVM Stretched: 15.5" Skein

I don't know too many yarns in my stash that I could stretch by an additional 15% in length, unless you count things like Cascade Fixation (which is cotton and lycra). This stuff could be a fibery rubber band.

This CVM wool seemed special from the moment that Julie and I started sticking our hands in the sample bags Liz sent us. It didn't take me too long to decide that I needed to know where this kind of fibery goodness came from. She sent me to Myrtle Dow at Black Pines Sheep. Would it surprise you all to know that I have 2 lbs of moorit Romeldale/CVM roving coming my way as I type? (I'm thinking I'm going to challenge myself to design both the yarn and a sweater for myself). Myrtle was very easy to work with from the fiber-buying perspective. She also didn't mind all my questions about the CVM sheep and I felt very good doing business with her. She's going to be at MS&W and I'm definitely going to try to find her and say hello in person... and not just because I think I want a fleece from a certain chocolate colored sheep...

You know, I never had any idea that a spinning wheel would be such a dangerous investment.

Hail to One Victor

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I'm incredibly late getting to the Family Sock Challenge update this week -- and there's been a lot of activity and I haven't had time this week to update my lists completely. So I'm going to hold off until Monday.

I will, however, not end the week without posting a sock project that I am working on -- socks and spinning are about all I've gotten to this week.

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The First of Two Victors: One Sock in Lorna's Laces UMich

This sock is partly to blame for my not being able to get up-to-date on Sock Challenge goings on. I actually knit a short row toe, thought it was just about the most dreadful (not in a good way this time) thing I'd knit in a long time and ripped it out and finished the sock with my regular toe. I'm not sure why the heel looks more or less okay while the toe looked so awful, but it did. I gave it a while to sit while I thought about it, but the more I looked at it, the uglier it got. I was so proud of myself that I didn't get at all distraught about ripping out 36 stitches worth of grafting the toe to the bottom of the sock.

I'm beginning to think that short row heels and toes work best when your sock fabric density is quite tight or you're working with a yarn that's squooshy and likes to fill in the gaps. I'm knitting these socks on US 1's and I could probably go down a needle size and still get a nice result. Also, while I think Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock is soft and foot-friendly, I don't consider it to be all that thick and squooshy. Of course, it could also just be something about my technique with those yarn over wraps or how tight I pull my yarn or some wierd artifact of the fact that I knit continental style.

Normally, I wouldn't draw attention to a ball of yarn (although I do want to mention that immediately after sewing in the ends of the first sock I cast on for the second one), but tonight I did a little experiment with the one you see here. You see, I've been reading Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning">Big Book of Handspinning (something I'll be reviewing soon) and he talks about making a center pull ball twice when winding a ball from swift to ball winder. The first time you wind the ball, the natural resistance of the swift means that you get a very tight compressed ball on your ball winder. If you take that center thread after you've made the first ball and re-wind a second time you get a much looser ball that's easier to knit with (because the fiber isn't compressed so tightly) and is a little more yarn friendly since the yarn is under a lot less tension (which is generally a good idea... it's better for yarn to be as relaxed as it can when you're storing it , which is why I don't take my yarn out of the skein configuration until I know I'm going to use it). The ball in the picture was subjected to the double winding procedure. And, the advice is good advice. I have a nice loose center pull ball, which allows the yarn to flow more easily as I work on the second sock.

26 Pairs of Socks

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The past couple of weeks have been busy ones for the folks knitting family socks along with me. Last time I posted we were up to 18 pairs. This week we've got 26 . Hopefully that means 26 pairs of happy feet. Here's where everyone stands:

Annie
Socks for son Luke finished!

Carole
Working on Socks for Daughter Hannah

Caryn

Heatherly
Socks for Baby finished!

Janine
Socks for Husband Finished!
Socks for Husband Started.

Janna
Socks for Mom Finished!
Socks for Sister Started

Jess
Finished socks for Grandmother!

Julie

Started Socks for Grandmother

Kristi
Socks for Hubby Finished
Socks for Dad Finished
Jaywalker Socks for Sister-in-Law Finished

Lisa

Socks for BIL Finished!

Socks for Husband Finished

Lora
Opal Dreamcatcher Socks for Mom finished!
Jaywalkers for Sister started.

Maggie

Maud
Regia Silk Socks for Her Son

Michelle H-K

Michelle K
Blue Socks for Daughter Kathryn finshed!
Jacquard Socks for Daughter Lindsey finished!
Starting green socks for Son Ian

Hedgemom Nancy
Socks for Husband Almost Finished
Trekking XXL Socks for Mom Started

Just Knitting Around Nancy

Natalie
Socks for Mom Finished
Socks for Daughter Finished
Socks for Daughter to Be Finished
Socks for Mother in Law Finished

Polly
Twin Jaywalkers for her Twin Boys finished!
Socks for Husband Finished
Jaywalker Socks for Husband Started

Tish
3rd daughter finished!

Traci

Wendy DG
Opal Socks Finished for Sock Partner Molly
Sockotta Socks Finished for Sister-in-Law Mollie

Together We've Finished 26 Pairs of Socks!

I'd like to say a big welcome to some new folks who have joined the Challenge. Hello to Janine, Julie and Lisa!

Since this challenge isn't just about me, when I can, I'm going to share pictures from people in the Challenge with me as well as stories and other anecdotes relevant to what knitting socks means to recipients and knitters. While pictures are limited to participants, if you have a special sock knitting story that relates to the knitting socks for family theme please feel free to send me an email (see my link in the side bar in my "About Me" section to get my email address) with your story (normally I wouldn't mind getting it in my comments, but then it wouldn't be a special surprise for the Sock Challenge update post.

Today's picture comes from Kristi who finished a pair of Jaywalker socks for her sister-in-law. They are modeled by the lovely and sweet Otis. I couldn't resist this picture because I don't get to put too many cute dogs up on my blog.

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Otis and a Pair of Opal Jaywalkers

Completely unrelated to socks, you need to check out Julie's new podcast, Stitch-Cast! Her first full episode is up and ready for download. I know I'm biased, but I think it's great! She introduces herself, talks about quilting, entrelac and indigo dyeing. And if you ever wanted to know how Julie and I met, you can find that out in the show, too!

If A Little Bit Is Good....

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Wanna see what came in the mail for me on Friday?

Of course you do.

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Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of CVM!

That, my friends, is, without a doubt, 2 pounds of fiber ecstacy. Two pounds of moorit CVM roving from Black Pines Sheep in Colorado. The weather may still be grey, but this fiber really isn't! It's a lovely soft fawn color, is wonderfuly soft and springy, and has almost no VM in it anywhere. It is destined to be a sweater for yours truly someday. I got more than I probably need for a sweater so that I could experiment and "sample" it to find out what I want it to be. I think I'd like the final yarn to end up somewhere between DK and worsted weight. The two or three ply part is something I am going to have to try and see on. I've been told that three-ply yarns are very nice for textured stitches and cables. And I've been thinking I'd like to design another cardigan for myself that has a simple cable pattern but a finer weight than I made Sigil.

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A Moorit Cloud

Doesn't it look like you could just jump in and float forever? That's probably what I'll be doing soon. Julie and I are planning on spending tomorrow afternoon spinning and there will definitely be a little CVM on my agenda.

Pearl's Progress

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All evidence to the contrary, I have not abandoned my Pearl Buck jacket. I was just waiting for some good light in my house and an extended period of peaceful time to get the sleeves seamed up and attached to the jacket.

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A Pair of Seamed Sleeves

I used to hate set in sleeves. In fact, I would actually seam the sleeve cap to the body of the sweater before seaming the actual sleeve and side seams. Now, I feel more comfortable with the process, but I still need to get into the right frame of mind to tackle the setting in of the sleeves.

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Sleeve and Armscye Agree

I always like to do a little reality check first and make sure that the sleeve caps are shaped properly to fit into the armscye. In this case, the match was a very nice one. So I proceeded with pinning.

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A Sleeve Gets Set(tled) In

I like to get everything set up by matching up the sleeve and side seams first, then matching the top center of the sleeve cap with the center point of the arm hole. Then I pin loosely around the outside to hold the pieces in place. Usually I start seaming (using mattress stitch) where the side seam and sleeve seam meet, because there are cast-off stitch edges there that can easily be matched up.

Now that seaming has commenced, can an actual sweater be far behind?

CVM Sampling

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When the weather is dreary and a chillier than it should be, there's no better way to spend the day than spinning with a friend. On Tuesday, I got to test out my new Bag Lady wheel bag and I headed out to visit Julie for an afternoon of spinning and chatting.

In the interest of preventing my very large ball of CVM roving from becoming the largest dust bunny in my house, I decided that I would start doing a little sampling to find a yarn that I thought would be suitable for making the simple and pretty cardigan I have in my mind. I thought I would start by making a two-ply and a three-ply yarn. I wanted to start with the three-ply, but, since I only brought three bobbins out with me, I ended up starting with the two-ply instead.

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2 Ply CVM Sample Skein

My African violet is helping me out with the modeling tonight since there's really still no green outside. This little skein is 42 yards of what I would estimate to be somewhere between fingering and DK weight yarn. It surprised me with it's behavior. When I spun it and plied it, it didn't feel as elastic as the chocolate brown CVM I spun. I gave it a long soak and let it hang to dry -- after which it developed that springy character that I really like. I guess that nice warm bath helped the fibers get some of their natural springy happy goodness back. A good reminder that one should always make sure that newly spun yarn should always get a beauty bath.

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Warm Oatmeal

It's not a dramatically colored yarn, but I like the soft heathery color of the yarn. It reminds me of oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar laced through it. However, it's a little finer than I want it to be for my cardigan. So trying out a three ply yarn will definitely be in order. I'm kind of excited about that since I've never tried to spin a three ply yarn before.

Since we're talking about yarn, I thought I'd finish up my report on the indigo dyed skeins. The large grey skein that we over-dyed at Toni's is finally washed and dried. Initially, I was just going to show you the big skein on its own, but I thought the nicest way to evaluate the color was to put it together with the other two skeins so that you could see the range of blues.

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Overdyed grey, natural wool, and silk and wool

That overdyed grey skein looks suprisingly like the color of one of my most recent denim purchases.

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Matching Yarn and Trousers

Hopefully I'll have Pearl pictures tomorrow. I've been hoping for some nice weather so that I can get some nice outdoor shots. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Pearl Buck Swing Jacket Finished

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The weather did get better today, but my photographer didn't get up early enough to take pictures before work (actually, he didn't go to bed early enough... a new computer game can be a terrible thing). But I wanted to go into the weekend with the finished pictures of my new Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, so the pictures shown here are from a cold grey windy morning (which is why the jacket and my hair appear to be in motion -- it was hard to keep things in place with the wind blowing all around and I really wanted to get back inside where it was warm!)

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Pearl Buck, Front View
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Pearl Buck, Back View
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Pearl Buck, Side View

Project: Pearl Buck Swing Jacket from Interweave Knits
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, Lava

In the end evaluation, I like the pattern. It was easy to execute and it has some nice details without being over the top. The yoke is behaving better than I thought it would and some severe blocking got the pleat in the back to mostly stay in place (I'll have to wear it out and about a bit to see how it really holds up). I think calling the sleeves "bracelet length" is a little optimistic, but it wouldn't be hard to make them longer if that was what was desired. In fact, I think that the photography for this project was a bit deceptive. Of course, I should know better by now than to judge a garment by the way it looks on the model, but some habits die hard. I made the smallest size -- which is supposedly the size pictured on the model in Interweave Knits. A 36" finished size is usually fine for me, but I must be a giant compared to the model they selected. As I look at the picture, it looks like the set-in sleeves are almost drop shoulders on her and the jacket hangs much lower past her waist than it does mine (and I am pretty short-waisted). So if you knit this jacket, be sure you like the measurements. I thought about doing the next size larger, but I'd swim in a jacket that was 41" around.

I do like the yarn and would knit with it again in another project with a raised stitch pattern. The texture and drape are very nice at this gauge and I think the heathery quality of the yarn fits the pattern and the design elements very well. My only complaint about the yarn was that I found quite a lot of VM in it, and it wasn't always easy to pull it out of the yarn. On the flip side, I found hardly any knots, and if I have a choice between knots or VM, I'll usually take the VM. The combination of this yarn and a good blocking process seems to have convinced the front edges not to curl too much. Once again, it will be interesting to see whether that remains true after the sweater has been worn for a while.

The weight of this yarn and the length of the sleeves makes this more of a spring and fall sweater. So, unusually enough for me, I think I've actually had good timing with regards to when I completed this sweater. Today we had some of our first truly spring-like weather. I'm hoping that Friday will be equally nice so that I can take the sweater out for a little jaunt around the neighborhood.

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