June 2006 Archives

CeCe For the Summer

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CeCe and my Nifty New Specs

I would love to be able to tell you that I got this finished up right after we went to Michigan. Truth be told, however, CeCe went to Michigan with me, but I never once did anything with her that could be remotely construed as working on her. I felt a little guilty, but I did plenty of other crafting, just not a lot of knitting.

CeCe is a lovely and easy to follow pattern. Bonne Marie did a great job of making a potentially complicated set of instructions easy to follow. And for the size I was making (the second smallest size) I found no errors at all. The lace pattern selected is a nice pattern for a not-quite-mindless by not terribly difficult lace knitting experience. I liked watching the over all design take place. If you've never knit lace in a garment before and want to try, this little cardigan would be an ideal way to get yourself started. I didn't make any adjustments to the pattern, although I have been wondering how it would look with a seed sttich border instead of the ribbing. I did a tubular cast on, and I thought that would give me a loose stretchy edge, but it didn't give me quite as loose an edge as i would have liked.

The yarn i chose turned out to be a nice pick for the project as well. I had some Butterfly Super 10 in my stash that turned out to be right on target as far as the gauge was concerned. It's a mercerized cotton, so it has a nice sheen that gives the sweater a little extra depth. To block CeCe, I used an iron on a setting high enough to generate steam. Then I put a towel between the sweater and the iron which allowed the heat and the steam to work it's way through to the garment without actually touching the iron to the garment.

And that's pretty much all there is to say. I could actually see making another one of these sweaters in a different color because I think this little sweater is so versatile for summer wear -- and there are almost no sweaters that I've ever wanted to make a duplicate copy of. No back shot of this sweater -- not because there's anything wrong with it, my photographer just didn't have time for a full-fledged photo shoot.But you do get to see my nifty new glasses. Sometimes a girl needs a pair of cheetah print frames!

Grey Day

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Today my spinning and the weather outside had a similar theme: they were both on the grey side of things. We really had one of those flat grey days where everything seems just a little bit duller and it's easy to move without really paying attention to things. I almost missed my bus stop coming back from downtown in the afternoon. One of those kinds of days.

My spinning, on the other hand, was a little more interesting. Even if the color theme was still a natural sheepy grey. Sheepy grey is a dynamic color, too me. Grey sheep usually seem to have all these wonderful variagations. And the Coopworth that Liz gifted Julie and I with was no exception.

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Grey Coopworth Single

I finsihed the single ply while we were in Michigan, but didn't hank it up on my niddy noddy until I got back to Chicago. Since I was planning to ply it from two ends of the same center pull ball, I decided to give it a bath to set the twist.

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Grey Coopworth 2 Ply

I plied the single after breakfast this morning to create 68 yards of simple 2 ply.

This Coopworth was interesting stuff. I had spun some Coopworth before (I know in the post I call it Corriedale, but now having spun both in natural form, I am pretty sure that it's Coopworth and not Corriedale), but it was Coopworth without any character, and I didn't much like spinning it. This stuff, however, was incredibly soft and lofty in the batt, and much nicer to spin, but it developed a less soft quality after I spun it. It also likes to grab onto itself -- you can see from the two ply picture that there's a bit of a halo. I think the adjective I would use to best describe it now would be "wiry". It's definitely has a lot of springiness in it, but it is not against the skin soft. I think it would make excellent outerwear, especially in this gorgeous natural tweedy grey. I could easily see a three ply of this yarn making a beautiful cabled sweater for a guy -- as long as he had a nice thick turtleneck underneath.

Another interesting note about this yarn. When I need to pause in my spinning, I usually wrap the single around the end of the orifice hook. When I did that with this fiber, even for just a few minutes while I prepared another bit of batt to spin from, I found that when I unwound the single, it had incredible memory for having been coiled. It was like the single now had a little coiled spring in it.

Thanks again to Liz for sharing something lovely with Julie and I. With what I have, I can definitely make a couple of swatches for a sheep breed blanket sampler that I am thinking about embarking on.

But it wasn't all grey around my house today.

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A Fuschia Peony Lights Up My Garden

My poor under sun-fed peony has finally provided me with some absolutely beautiful blooms. The color is so vivid and intense, it was the perfect pick-me-up this afternoon to take my camera out front and snap a few closeups. Nothing like a beautiful vivid color to chase the grey away!

9 New pairs of socks have come into the world since my last report. Y'all are putting me to shame as I move slowly along on the second sock for my mom (now that the K2 P2 ribbing for the second sock is complete, I should be moving along more quickly).

This time saw socks from a whole bunch of folks. Carole finished up some beautiful lacy socks for a wonderful friend (yes, I think friends can count as family!), Heatherly finished a pair of cashmere socks for her mom (lucky mom!) , Julie was particularly busy this month and finished both a pair for her grandpa and a pair for her aunt, Michelle K finished up a colorful pair of socks for her mom, Nathalie squeezed in a pair for herself (knitting for yourself is definitely fair game, too, since I'm sure you're a part of your family), and Wendy finished up a very special pair of Trekking socks for her sister. She was working on these socks when her mother passed away due to MS.

To Wendy, on behalf of myself and the other sock challengers, I just want to say that I am deeply sorry for your loss. You're definitely in my thoughts right now. I wish you peace and good warm memories of your mother.

To everyone else, I'd like to mention that there is a way to help support MS research and make sure that scientists and doctors can do more work to make sure that this terrible disease affects fewer people in the future. A very excellent blogger and friend, Claudia, is going on a very big bike ride to raise money for the National MS Society. She's already raised over $10,000 with the help of many fiber folks out there and has set a new goal for $15,000. If you are looking for a good cause to support, this is an excellent one. Having worked in a lab myself, I can tell you that $10-$15K or more can make a big difference in a research project. Sometimes it only takes one simple experiment by just one person to create a breakthrough that can make someone's life better. Supporting the MS society is a great way to give researchers a chance to make those breakthroughs happen! So please consider clicking on over to Claudia's Blog and clicking on her fundraising button.

Want to check out all those new socks? Just click the links next to the dates for the finished projects.

Green City Market

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Central Chicago from Lincoln Park

Today's post is a little detour from what I normally talk about here. It was such a great Chicago kind of weekend for John and I, so I decided to share a little of what makes this city (and the Midwest) such a great place to live in. While many people complain about winter and cold grey weather, it was almost impossible to complain about the weather this weekend, which was not only almost perfect, but also reminded me of one of the things that is so great about the Midwest in the summer: fresh produce. In the summer, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois produce some of the most wonderful fruits and vegetables you can imagine. The only problem? Chicago is not exactly farm country and in spite of what you might think, even in the summer our grocery stores sell a lot of unappetizing produce. So, on Saturday morning, John and I headed off to check out something I've wanted to know more about for a while:

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Green City Market

The Green City Market is a market that is meant to connect very high quality small farms with chefs, restauranteurs and the general public. It's located in the south end of Lincoln Park (the actual park, not the location in the city) every Wednesday and Saturday morning in the summer. It's a project that has been spearheaded by many of Chicago's prominent chefs who are interested in serving foods that support local farms and sustainable and organic farming practices. Anyone who comes to sell their wares there must be certified organic and must be dedicated to sustainable farming practices (along with a host of other credentials). Not surprisingly it is composed of a relatively small and select group of farmers and small businesses. Since we had such a nice time Saturday afternoon, I thought I'd give you all a little photo tour of what we found there.

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Green Acres Farm (Indiana) Booth

We bought some of the most wonderful baby greens from Green Acres Farm, as well as some really splendid fresh garlic (which I took home and sliced into some special olive oil along with some basil from our garden). Another great find? Fresh asparagus from a farm that I (unfortunately) can't remember the name of.

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Ripe Tomatoes

Apparently it is time for the early tomatoes to come in. Neither John nor I eats tomatoes (unless they are in a sauce), but I still thought that they looked beautiful sitting on the tables of the several vendors who brought them.

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Simply Wool

And lest you think that there will be no fibery content today at all, here's the Simply Wool booth that was featuring hand-dyed natural wool yarns. I didn't get a chance to talk to her, but some of the colors were really lovely, and apaprently she will also do custom colors.

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Green City Market Crepe Booth

Some festivals feature fried Twinkies. This market featured fresh made crepes and panini sandwiches. John and I decided that we had to stop for a crepe made with fresh strawberry preserves. Yum! Even more fun when you get to watch your crepe being made in front of your eyes.

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Musical Entertainment

Our shopping and crepe eating was accompanied by this lovely string group playing folksy music. How can you not love the idea of a huge string bass in the middle of Lincoln Park?

Before we left, we had also bought a steak produced by Heartland Meats. This farm features Piedmontese cattle which are a special breed that is lower fat but not lower in tenderness. Not only is the meat hormone free, but the farm grows its own non-GMO to feed the cattle and ensure the high quality of the product. For dinner, John and I had a wonderful salad with the baby greens, and John grilled up the steak and the asparagus. We had an almost entirely "organic" meal that was just wonderful.

Our only regret for the day? That we didn't get to the Market early enough to get a chance to grab some of the strawberries that some of the producers sold out of. Is there anything better than farm fresh strawberries in early June? Almost nothing to a midwestern girl like me.

Emergency Provisions

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While I was at MS&W, I got the chance to meet Cassie, a NY blogger who knits, spins and quilts. I think one of the best things about fiber festivals is getting the chance to meet people who are doing interesting and clever things in different areas of the fiber arts. One of her current quilting/sewing endeavors involves making her lovely "Emergency Sock Kits", which are cleverly constructed fabric containers meant to hold all those handy things you want to have at your finger tips when you're a sock knitter on the go. I didn't order mine until after the festival, and it arrived in the mail tonight, just in time for an early evening photo shoot.

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Psychedelic Waves Emergency Sock Kit

I need to find some safety pins so that I can keep a couple of stitchmarkers and a big darning needle in the kit (I'll attatch these to the flap over the needles), and I'll have to search a craft store for a 6" clear plastic ruler that can go into the wide left hand side pocket (why have I never thought of having one of those before?), but otherwise I'm almost completely set to take on the sock knitting world on Chicago Public Transportation. This lovely little case easily holds several sets of DPs, a pair of scissors and a crochet hook in addition to the things I need to find. And it's so well put together. I can only dream of being able to use a sewing machine so well!

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Emergency Sock Kit Ready for Action!

And it looks just as lovely closed as it does open. It's held closed with a co-ordinated color snap. Every time I pick it up I find some interesting little detail. More proof for me that a sewing machine can be a good thing. Perhaps it's time for me to think about bonding with Romeo again....

On the Rocks

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Once again, I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint anyone coming here looking for real knitting content. (I am actually knitting, but showing an inch of additional progress on a sock or a scarf seems uninspiring at best). Today I'm going back to my cross stitch project because I have hit a major milestone with it: I have completed the cross stitching for all the rocks.

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The Castle, with Rock Background Complete

It might seem like it took me an awfully long time to complete a relatively small amount of cross stitching (the rocks under the dragon's tail). I've not only worked on this project an hour every evening, but over Memorial Day weekend I probably got in an additional 8-10 hours of stitching on this project. How could anything take that long? I provide you with some additional detail on this:

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Close Up Detail of Stitches Under the Dragon's Tail

This is the small section of stitches under the right end of the dragon's tail, extending to the opening where the end of the tail will be. Almost all Teresa Wentzler cross-stitch patterns involve using two plies, each of different colors. She blends colors that way, and also tends to use each color in very small areas on the canvas. Thus, you change colors a lot and spend a lot of time separating thread and doing thread maintenance stuff. I used to keep multiple needles threaded at once when I finished an area and still had floss left, but now I just clip the remainder, throw it away and go on and just use one needle. Easier for me to keep track of since I'm not in any danger of running out of floss.

That said, you might notice that the rocks under the dragon's tail are darker than the ones above. I'm not sure if this is due to fading, one of the base color flosses with a different dyelot (colors 3041 and 3042 are blended with other colors most often to make the rocks) or if they are supposed to be darker due to the lower body of the dragon shading those rocks. With cross-stitch, as in knitting, you should always get enough floss to complete your project from the same dyelot, but this project is pretty old and I have no idea if I am still using the same dyelot on these colors or not (I think I am for most of them...).

This project is getting a bit exciting for me now. I feel like I am coming into the home stretch. At the same time, working on this project has been an unexpectedly pleasant re-awakening for my fingers -- like finding a $10 bill in a winter coat pocket.after it was put away for the summer. It feels very natural and comfortable and enjoyable. So much so, that I've been trolling Ebay for some new patterns.

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Two New Pattern Books: The Petites Book 1 and Celestial Dragon

By now, perhaps, you are sensing that I have a little thing for dragons. And so I probably do. It was the fantasy creatures that drew me to Teresa Wentzler's work originally and clearly it keeps drawing me back. I got the "Petites" book because I like the idea of working on a "small" TW project (not to worry, they are completely chock-a-block with blended colors) and the Celestial Dragon design because I like this departure from TW's standard fantasy oriented dragons. I could actually see this design on a wall in my living room, if stitched on a sophisticated linen background. If you want to see all of TW's designs (and she has a bunch of free charts, too!) you can find her site here.

The last time I posted about my cross-stitch, I know that there were a number of you out there who told me that this was inspiring you to go back pull out some of your old unfinished projects. I'd like to keep encouraging y'all to do that. Don't have something unfinished? Maybe it's time to start something new. I've also been buying some interesting new floss and fibers so that when I finish the Castle, I have another interesting new project to start!

Odd Little Knit Bits

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You know, there are some interesting things out there in the knitting and fiber world right now. And with the help of my constantly web-surfing husband, here's a sampling of things to make your day a little more interesting.

Want to see the world's longest handknit scarf? Check out Knitting Their Way Into the Record Books | NEWS | Deutsche Welle | 05.06.2006 about a group of World Cup knitters that have been keeping their hands busy.

Want to shop for your very own sheep? The Sheep Market is a strange little web-based project that will give you at least a coffee break's worth of entertainment.

And finally, from the unusual pets file, a story about The Sheep Who Thinks She's a Dog. Friends, this sheep likes soccer and jumping through hoops and herding ducks. Apparently northwest Wales is a good place to be taken seriously if you're a sheep. I'd just love to know what breed she is.

Happy Birthday to My Husband

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John Planting Our Garden

Happy Birthday to my Husband

To the man who genuninely wants nothing (almost nothing, anyway).
To the man who gives freely of himself to many people, even if they don't always treat him well.
To the man who knows that sometimes you don't have to talk loudly to be heard and respected.
To the man who can keep our home computer network running, or tenderly plant a Easter lilly in the backyard.
To the man who respects my hobbies and never makes me feel bad about an impulse purchase.
To the man who patiently and tolerantly puts up with my constant desire to knit him a sweater, even though he is not really the sweater wearing type.
To the man who does double duty as my fashion photographer and always seems to find a way to get a good picture of both me, and the sweater.
To the man who really does see the good in everyone, and helps me remember that sometimes first impressions should not be the last ones.
To the man who has the uncanny ability to make me feel better no matter how bad things seem.
To the man who helps keep my feet on the ground, but always makes me feel like I'm walking a little bit above the earth.
To the man who holds my hand when we go for walks.
To the man who is my best friend and my greatest hero and the love of my life.
To the man that I can't imagine living without.

I love you, sweetheart, and I hope this birthday year, the 10th of your birthdays that we will celebrate together, will be one of great joy and new adventures..

A Wheel With a View

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One of the things I like about my house is the little balcony off the master bedroom that overlooks our "backyard" -- I put backyard in quotes because the backyard includes our deck and a rectangle of green and a garage. While the view may not be completely awe inspiring, I do like the fact that it is high enough up that I can come home from work and still enjoy some of the late afternoon sunshine.

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A Wheel With a City View

It becomes even better when it's warm enough (but not too warm) for me to take my wheel out with me. Combined with my iPod and a good audio book, it is a wonderful way to watch the day fade out. What's on my bobbins these days? I'm working on spinning up the 8 ounces of cochineal/madder dyed Corriedale that I got from Handspun by Stefania at MS&W. It's nice fiber, but I'm finding quite a bit of VM in it, as well as a lot of short, burr-like fibers that don't make for spinning results as smooth as I'd like them. Because of that, I've decided that I'm going to go for a three-ply yarn rather than a two ply, in hopes that that will even things out a little bit more and leave me with a relatively nice skein or two of yarn to plan a winter project with.

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Madder and Cochineal Corriedale Single

A lovely winter color, I think. There's enough subtle variagation to give the final yarn depth, but it shouldn't do the striping business that I manage to get from most of my hand-dyed fiber. I've finished the first bobbin and am about half-way through with the second. I'm hoping that I can finish the second and third bobbin up so that I can give my dad a little plying demonstration when we go to Ann Arbor for Father's Day this weekend.

I Really Do Still Knit

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This weekend I participated in the Chicago branch of the World Wide Knit In Public Day. Bonne Marie, Julie and I all headed down town to Millenium Park to show off our colors. While I like to knit in public, I find that I can't take on much that's very complicated. Thus, socks are almost always my knit in public travelling companions.

I'm still working hard to achieve my goal of socks for everyone in my immediate family this year. After getting kind of stalled out on my Mom's Tiger socks for a while, I got back to them in earnest last week and over the weekend. Yesterday I got that heel flap taken care of and today I finished the gusset decreases. One nice thing about mom: she doesn't have very long feet, so by getting this far I am definitely over halfway done with the second sock. I think that means I have a good chance of gifting mom with the socks this weekend when I see her.

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A Tiger and A Half

These socks are definitely fraternal. Maybe there's a repeat in this sock yarn, but because of the changing diameter of the calf of the sock and the general feeling of randomness, I decided that these socks would be best off as fraternal. After all, no two tigers are exactly alike, so I figure it can work for socks, too.

These socks have also been a good source of stress relief for me this weekend. Or at least another place to focus my brain instead of worrying about something that I have almost no control over. Working on them helps me refocus on my mom, a wise woman who has reminded me many times in my life that no matter how difficult somethings may become, that the sun will always rise again tomorrow.

I see all this delightful lace knitting going on when I read other people's blogs. I feel like I should be inspired to knit lace. After all, lace is lightweight and compatible with summer knitting needs (as long as one is not knitting with Kidsilk Haze). But right now, there's no lace on my WIP list, and I've decided that it's time to keep marching the number of unfinished projects down a little bit. One of those truly long lingering projects has been my Mermaid socks (design by Lucy Neatby in Cool Socks, Warm Feet). I started the first sock at the time that I went to the 2004 MS&W. I decided to start the second sock at this years MS&W. Because I wasn't paying attention, I made a mistake in the transition between the cuff and the body of the sock. So, annoyed with myself, I stuffed the sock back into it's project bag (what would I do with out Ziplocs eh?) and didn't pull it back out until Saturday when I headed out to the Worldwide Knit in Public Day festivities (want to see some of what was going on there? Check out Bonne Marie's excellent coverage as well as Lynette's photos from the day. I forgot to bring my camera...)

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Mermaid Sock Number 2 Begins

I did make an attempt to get them to be identical, but, if you've ever worked with this particular brand of Regia yarn, you know, like I don, that it's relatively challenging. So I settled for "mostly identical". I've never been all that hung up on the need for identical socks, so the slight difference won't bother me all that much -- especially with the riot of color that is going on in the sock.

I'd forgotten how easy this pattern is for the neat effect it gives you. Almost mindless, except that I can't do a k2tog without looking at my knitting.

Since I'm very close to finishing my mom's socks (just the toe decreases remain now) these socks will likely make the jouney with me to Ann Arbor this weekend along with my cross stitch dragon and my wheel. This is one of two pairs of socks I get to make for myself as part of my Family Sock Challenge (I'm allowed to finish the two pairs that are lingering in my WIP list). Once I finish Mom's socks, I'll be 2/3 of the way through, so I think I can give myself a little sock reward.

P.S. To My Fellow Sock Challengers: I'm sorry I missed our update over the weekend, I was distracted by a bunch of things. This weekend I'll be in Ann Arbor, so no update this coming weekend, either. I promise that we'll have another update the following weekend. After that I should both be in town for a while and have my head better together, so the postings should get more regular.

My Castle Gets a Tail

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I made another milestone on my cross stitch project this week: my dragon now has a fully completed tail.

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One Dragon, One Tail

Now all of the main picture is complete! All that remains is a bit of stitching around the bottom of the tail to suggest it rising out of the water, and a little bit of background scenery on either side of the dragon on the island. I'm beginning to feel like success with this project is in sight! Amazing what actually working on a project can accomplish towards getting it finished.

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The Tail Detail

I can't turn away from a good macro mode shot opportunity. This picture is evidence of two things, however. 1) 22 count hardanger is not the right fabric to use if you are going to have to make a lot of half stitches 2) if you do use 22 count hardanger and have to do a lot of half stitches, at least your ugly stitches won't be all that visible because they will be very, very tiny.

This project is another project that will be going to Ann Arbor with me this weekend. Perhaps I will get all the cross stitching finished while I am there... and then I will get to move on to the true joy (NOT) that will be backstitching this bad boy.

Finished Tigers

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Opal Rainforest Tiger Socks

Et Voila! Finished Opal Rainforest Tiger socks. This is just a modification of my "standard sock" pattern to create some extra calf shaping. Other than that, it has a standard Dutch heel and 4-pt decrease toe. The "special detail" in this sock is that whenever two black stitches overlapped, I purled the stitch instead of knit it, giving the sock a raised texture on the outside when a black stripe is formed. Because of all the shaping, this resulted in some stripes on the calves that I think do look very tiger stripe-ish. No attempt was made to make these socks identical, and, honestly, I'm not sure that there's a real obvious repeat region in this yarn.

These socks are my fifth pair of finished socks for my Family Sock Challenge (John got 2 pairs, my sister-in-law got a pair and my dad got a pair). How about that? Only two more pairs left to go. But I'll be finishing those Mermaid socks for myself before tackling any new pairs.

Happy Father's Day to everyone out there who is a great dad or has a great dad (like I do!). We're heading off to Ann Arbor to spend the weekend with my folks. I wish a good weekend to everyone else out there, too!

Finished Mermaid Socks

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Finished Mermaid Socks in Regia 5047

At long last, 2 years after they were started, the Mermaid Socks are finally finished. I still am not sure why I stalled out after the first sock. The pattern is quite easy to work and it's kind of fun to watch the ribs swirl around under your fingers while you knit. The narrowness of these socks is deceptive -- the ribbing stretches a good deal to accomodate my size 8 feet.

I did the simplest version of the Mermaid Socks from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet (the link is to her website instead of Amazon because Amazon only seems to be selling outrageously priced used copies). I chose the simple wavy cuff instead of the more elaborate garter stitch cuff. The pattern is easy to follow (but you do have to pay attention to the toe shaping instructions) and would lend itself to almost any self-striping sock yarn. In this case, I am using Regia Mini Ringel 5047 which is just a carnival of bright color. These socks will definitely be brightening up my sock drawer.

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Bad Picture of FInished Mermaid Socks Being Worn

This was the bad picture I was able to snap of the socks while I was wearing them -- it was literally the last picture I took before my battery died on my camera. Not the greatest picture, but I think it at least shows how the ribbing widens out -- and, how almost by accident, these socks turned out almost identical instead of fraternal. If I'd been really clever, I would have modified the pattern for the second sock so that the ribbing slanted in the opposite direction. Perhaps, someday, if I make another pair.

This is my first finished pair for me during the Family Sock Challenge. Now I have to figure out what pair of socks I am going to tackle next.

Fabric Box

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Fabric Box with Knit Print Fabric

Sometimes I have the distinct pleasure of getting to show off something that someone else has made. I would love to be able to take credit for this lovely fabric box, but instead I must give my Mom a big round of applause. While my Dad and I were making beer (more on this later in the week) or working on Sudoku puzzles together over Father's Day weekend, Mom was working on getting very neat box finished up for me to take home. It's very fun to have crafty parents!

This box was constructed with two fabrics that I bought during the last trip to Ann Arbor. I found it in the "kids" section of the quilting store and I love the bright and happy yarn ball print contrasted with the yellow fabric with the running black stitch. Mom made the box edging red to give it a little extra zing. And it gets it's structure from some very thick interfacing.

Want to take a look inside?

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Looking into the Box

This 6-sided box is lined with more of that great yarn ball print. I haven't quite decided what I am going to put in it yet. I think it might be nice for holding a sock project or keeping some of my knitting notions that are getting scattered across my work room. It's got enough structure to actually be useful.

Where did this little project come from? How can you get one of your very own? Well, if you're handy with your sewing machine, you can pick up a copy of this book:

It gets mixed reviews on Amazon, and Mom also suggested that there were many ways to make the projects go together more smoothly now that she's completed one. There are lots of nifty boxes to choose from -- squares, pentgons, hexagons and a Chinese take out box. Yet another way to use up some of that fabric stash if you have one!

Colors of Summer

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It occurs to me that it's been a little while since I posted about any goodies I'd been getting in the mail. I do love getting boxes, even when I know what's in them. One of the more recent things that has ended up on my doorstep is this gorgeous roving:

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Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale Pencil Roving in "Cotton Candy"

This is one of those treats that I discovered as a result of Cara at january one when she posted about Sock Hop sock yarn -- a hand dyed, hand spun sock yarn that is absolutely beautiful. Initially I headed over to the Crown Mountain Farms website looking for said sock yarn. I was a little disappointed to find that they were sold out. But then very happy when I discovered their section of Corriedale Pencil Rovings (this took me a little while to find, which is why I am providing the direct link). I do like Corriedale a great deal, and some of their colorways are beautiful. It was hard for me to settle on just one! But in the end I decided I wanted some bright happy yellow on my wheel and selected the Cotton Candy. The fiber as it sits here on my desk is quite nice to pet, and it was shipped out almost instantaneously. At $14 for 8 ounces, it's a great deal for enough well prepared roving to make two pairs of socks or a nice small lace shawl. Not quite the same as getting the Sock Hop yarn -- but just about the next best thing if you're a spinner. And if you're not a spinner, but like to knit and felt things, you could actually knit this roving up without processing to make a neat felted bowl or bag.

I''ve been itching to put this on my wheel, but I'm trying to be good until I finish my madder/cochineal dyed Corriedale up and until another treat arrives on my doorstep.

Since color is always inspiring for me on grey rainy days, I thought I'd leave you with another picture in a different colorway, so to speak: my backyard deck garden. In the city, you don't get the luxury of big beautiful yard gardens very often, so you have to take advantage of whatever space you can find. John and I planted our hanging boxes with Wave Petunias, and to the left side, all that green is the collection of herbs John planted for cooking (thyme, rosemary, cilantro, dill, fennel, oregano, basil and something else that I can't remember at the moment) and our little pepper plants. with a few more little flowers and a tea rose (which will come inside this winter). It makes my upstairs balcony a nice place to look down from and gives me a bright shot of color every day, even when the weather is a little dreary.

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My Deck Garden

Cross Stitching Completed

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The Castle, With All Cross Stitching Complete

So, here you have it. I didn't quite meet my goal of getting all the cross-stitching completed over the weekend, but I wasn't too far off, all things considered. Seeing all those little x's and half x's in the form of a complete picture is inspiring for me. It's come at the expense of a great many knit and purl stitches or spinning wheel treadles that might have occured had I not been working on this project, and it's still not complete, but clearly I have met a significant milestone. I will be doing a little victory dance before I start into the large quantity of backstitching that needs to be done in order to give the project its final detailing.

It was a momentous day for another reason as well. I finally got my own personal PayPal account set up. Anyone who has bought one of my felted bag patterns will know that I was using the account that I shared with John and which only had his name on it. I don't have a problem with this personally, but since John and I don't share a last name, I have always worried that this was confusing to people who bought my patterns. I've also wanted to keep track of my own little rainy day/business start up fund. No, I have no plans to start a business anytime soon, but the idea does appeal to me and this seemed like a good way to start saving up should I ever decide to go in that direction.

All this is a long winded way of letting you know that, come Monday, I should be very close to making my Dragon Scale pattern available for sale. Assuming I can figure out if using PayLoadz is the right strategy for me -- it seems kind of expensive and I'm trying to avoid passing on any more costs than I have to to folks who want to buy the pattern. Would you rather pay extra for the convenience of having immediate download or pay less and wait a little bit until I can send you the pattern by email?

Just a quick update, because my comments suggest there's a bit of confusion... I am *not* considering snail mail at all as a distribution method. For a couple of reasons: 1) This pattern is large and I couldn't ship it with regular postage (and having to add 40 cents or more postage, pay for paper and inkjet cartridges, etc. would be more costly than the automated downloads), 2) I am just about the world's worst person at getting to the post office and I don't always have time to go there every day, plus, the post office does, occasionally lose things; 3) I'd have to have separate pricing for international and US buyers because international shipping costs more, and that would mean I'd have a lot more to keep track of.

So... the only methods of receipt are immediate download by a service like PayLoadz or file sent by email by me as soon as I can get to it after the PayPal transaction has cleared.

First of all, today we have hit a major milestone! We actually have some Family Sock Challenge finshers! Congrats to Maud (who completed 6 pairs of socks -- be sure to check out the Tilt socks she made for herself -- there's a link below -- they're gorgeous!) and Kristi (who also completed 6 pairs of socks -- you have to go click on the link for the Fancy Gentleman's Socks that she made for her sister) on meeting the challenge! Y'all are way out in front of me right now -- I still have two more pairs to go that are completely unstarted yet (although I did finish a pair for me, which I've decided counts just a little bit!)!

And there are still more socks. Michelle finished a pair for a good friend (yep, that counts! I have a few friends that are close enough to consider family) there's a link to the socks under the latest entry under her name. The cute kid picture alone is worth the click! Michelle seems to be surrounded by cute kids. Janna completed a pair for herself that is also part of the Six Sox Knit-A-Long in a very lovely Koigu colorway (as always, link below Janna's name) and is taking a little break before she gets back into the thick of sock knitting. And, last but not least, Carole is getting started on a new pair of socks for her sister-in-law -- and by the looks of it, also having some very fun fiber adventures!

As always, you can check out everyone's new (and old) socks with the links under their names. Those folks that are finished will have a ** ** around their names. It's really a lot of fun to see how much people can accomplish. I mean, hey, 71 socks in 6 months. That's almost 12 pairs a month. Certainly the world must be a better place for that!

I have finally managed to get all my ducks in a row to sell my "Here There Be Dragons" sock pattern. In fact, it is actually two patterns based off of the same starting point

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Up-Scaled and Down-Scaled Dragon Socks Together

I actually found a nice service that works with PayPal and is much cheaper than PayLoadz: EJunkie. This means that I can give everyone an immediate download without having to charge too much extra for the download service. I'm asking $5.75 for the pattern set. The 11 page pattern is in PDF format and includes complete charts, color pictures and detailed instructions for both pairs of socks, with alternate toe options to help those of you who need different sock lengths from the models.

If you'd like to purchase the pattern you can

1) Click this Button

2) Clcik the "Add to Cart" button under the dragon sock image in the "Patterns For Sale" section of my side bar

3) Go to my Patterns section and use the "Add to Cart" button you find there. You will also find a link there that provides a detailed description of the pattern along with some detail pictures of both designs. As well as links to my other two felted handbag designs.

Once you proceed to checkout from the shopping cart, you can use your PayPal account or a credit card to pay for the pattern. After that, you will be immediately directed to the download. How cool is that?

Of WooLee Winders

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Rember a couple of days ago when I mentioned the lovely pencil roving that I had purchased from Crown Mountain Farms? I mentioned also that I was waiting for a few things to happen before I started spinning it up. One of those things was getting through the madder/cochineal dyed Corriedale that I had already gotten started (this project is finally getting close to the plying stage). The other was waiting for the arrival of a new tool for my wheel: a WooLee Winder. I got to play with one of these at MS&W, but convinced myself that I could wait on it. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to wait. So in early June I got myself on line and placed my order.

Friday night my new toy arrived on my doorstep. So I did what any sensible spinning blogger would do: I took pictures and then I tried it out.

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WooLee Winder Flyer Compared to Standard Lendrum Flyer

Even though both flyers are the same length and fit into the same mother of all, the WooLee Winder is deeper than the standard Lendrum flyer and accomodates a rather larger bobbin. The more I spin the more I think "the bigger the better" when it comes to bobbins. In addition to the one you see in the assembly on the left, I also bought myself two additional bobbins so that I could make a three ply yarn. I'll probably invest in more bobbins later, but at $25/bobbin, I decided I'd be conservative as I got started.

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Flyer to Wheel Ratios Compared

The depth of the flyer isn't the only difference for the WooLee Winder compared to the Lendrum Standard Flyer. It also has a different set of Flyer/Wheel ratios. The WooLee Winder has 6:1, 10:1 and 19:1 while the Lendrum Standard flyer has 6:1, 8:1 and 10:1 (I can get higher ratios with my "Lendrum Fast Flyer"). So the WooLee Winder should be quite flexible for spinning lace weight as well as bulkier yarns -- assuming I can ever figure out how to spin anything besides what is becomming my "standard" single.

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WooLee Winder and CVM

So how does it affect the spinning experience? For me, it's like a world of difference. You can just spin and spin and spin. I thought it might be noisy, but the mechanism that distributes the single evenly over the bobbin is quite quiet once you get things started. I did find that I had to increase the scotch tension higher for the WooLee bobbins than I did for the Lendrum bobbins, but that probably makes sense given that they are rather larger. I really liked getting started on this bobbin. With my Lendrum bobbins, when you move the single to an open space on the bobbin that doesn't already have yarn on it, it usually starts hoovering that single in quite agressively until empty wood gets covered over with yarn. The draw on the WooLee Winder is smooth all the time.

A few other notes from my short spinning session. 1) The increased depth of the WooLee Winder Flyer has one other issue -- you have to position the Lendrum orifice hook "just so" so that the WW doesn't hit the hook. I was a little worried for the first few moments that I'd have to find another place to put my orifice hook (which I wouldn't like because I like to have the hook handy for both use and for wrapping the single around when I pause) but after I got it positioned right, everything worked out fine. 2) While I didn't have to worry about the distribution of the single over the bobbin, I did find that I had to adjust my scotch tension more frequently with the WW than I did with my standard flyer. Not sure whether that is just due to the weight of the bobbin or some other spinning physics bit that I still have to figure out. 3) The single is packed much more tightly on the bobbin. So not only are you getting a bigger bobbin to put more single on, but the simple act of even distribution gives you even more space for fiber.

Overall I'm very happy with my new purchase. Now if I could only get finished with that madder/cochineal Corriedale so that I could get on to using my WooLee Winder in earnest!

Beer, Part 1

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In a shameless attempt to attract yet another new demographic to my blog, I'm going to start talking about homebrewing. John and I, well, we love us a good beer. How do we define good? Well, let's just say that in our world, "good beer" does not include anything that comes out a major brewery in Milwaukee or St. Louis. We're all about the microbrews, both US and European. Generally we tend to favor different styles. John loves stouts, porters and the occasional bock. Give me a pale ale or a hefeweizen (especially in the summer) and I'm a happy camper --when it comes to what I like, the more hops the better. We both will travel to great lengths to try a good Belgian ale. Whenever we visit a new place, the first thing we try to do is find a local microbrewery.

So it's probably no surprise that eventually we would get around to trying to make beer on our own. We were completely inspired by my dad who has recently gotten back into homebrewing (he did it a long time ago when I was small) and has had a couple of great batches of "clone" beer (clones being recipes designed to reproduce commercially produced beers). We were a little surprised when he told us that it was easy to make beer. Particularly when you have a kegging system instead of bottle. Thus, for John's birthday, my parents and I treated the ultimate hard to buy for guy to a complete homebrewing kit.

As a warning to everyone, this post is all about beer... if you're not interested you might want to click away now. I promise, there's nothing fiber related that you're going to miss.

So where do you start? Well the first thing you should do is find a good homebrewing store. We got John set up at Adventures in Homebrewing in Dearborn, MI. This is a great store and the guys who run it are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. Have a question you need help with? Just give the store a call. Even complete beer-making newbies are treated with respect. I can't recommend them enough. They are also good at recommending and helping you put together recipes. Which is where any beer brewing experience begins.

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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone Recipe

The beer that Dad and I started a couple of weekends ago is a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. After you have the recipe, you need to get all those ingredients. Gotta love all that malt sugar! No fermentation would be complete without something to feed the yeast. The grains add flavor and color, the hops add the bittering elements and other aromas. Most of the hops in this beer had an almost citrusy scent.

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Steeping the Grain

The first thing in the process is to put all the cracked grain into a porous bag and to steep that bag in a gallon or so of water that's about 160 degrees Farenheit. Basically, it's like steeping your tea bag. Only this is a very large 2 lb tea bag! It actually smells better than you think it might.

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Adding the Yeast Food

After you pull out your big tea bag, then it's time to add the malt sugar. This brew has about 8 pounds of malt for 5 gallons of brew, yet the beer isn't sweet. Why? The malt is there to feed the yeast. Basically, yeast eat up the sugar and they belch out CO2 gas and alcohol (and other nutrients). Essentially, when you make beer you're trading that sugar for the alcohol. Both yeast and humans become very happy. It takes a while to get all that sugar into solution, and it clumps a little bit (as you can see in the picture) but eventually it will all go in.

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Boiling the Wort

The next step is to get the wort (i.e. the starting gamish that is beer) up to boiling temperatures. There's a couple of reasons for this. One is essentially sterilization of the solution. The other is to cause certain chemical reactions to happen with the alpha acids in the hops that create a lot of the flavors in beer. Most worts are boiled for an hour. You add hops depending on what you want them to do. Bittering hops are added early in the boil. Aroma hops are added towards the end. Basically, it's just chemistry in action. When you add the hops determines how far the chemical reactions with the alpha acids can go.

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Sanitizing the Ale Pail

While we're on the subject of sterilization, one very important step in this process is to sanitize your fermentation container. There are lots of very nifty "one step" sanitizers that make this an easy process. Dad claims these things are one of the reasons he got back into it. Apparently the cleaning part used to be a much more painful process.

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Cooling Down the Wort

Once you've finished boiling the wort, it's time to bring it down in temperature. After all, you wouldn't want to swim in a boiling sugar solution and neither do your yeast! You can just wait for it to cool down on it's own, but that can take a while and most homebrewers like to help it along. I knew there was something good that all that ice that accumulates in our automatic ice maker could be used for!

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Wort Meets Ale Pale

Not so much left to do now. All you have to do is put the wort in the sanitized pail (some people filter at this stage, but you don't have to) and bring the volume of the wort up to 5 gallons (or whatever volume you are making).

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Pitching the Yeast

Only one thing left to do now! It's time to "pitch the yeast". Ales are top fermented, so the yeastie beasties (please forgive a hold over phrase from grad school) are just distributed across the top of the wort. After that, you just put on the lid, and attach the bubbler (essentially a little contraption that allows the CO2 gas to escape but doesn't allow bad things to get into the beer) and let the first fermentation phase "hang out" around room temperature. Something I learned at this point: there is actually a difference between lagers and ales. Ales are fermented at what is mostly room temperature, right around 70 degrees Farenheit. Lagers are fermented in the cold (around 40 degrees Farenheit). You need to use different yeasts and sugar mixtures to make each one work right because yeast that can ferment ales at room temperature aren't necessarily the same ones that are good at doing the job in the cold.

For sticking with me through the beer making extravaganza, I'm also going to introduce a new feature here to my blog: AVI movies. This is just set up as a link so that you don't have to download if you don't have the bandwidth or don't want to. This little movie shows what the bubbler does once those yeast get busy with their yeasty business. I just love my new little camera! Click Here for my First Beer Movie

What comes next? Well, a bunch of fun things! But beer takes time so you're going to have to wait patiently just like we are to see the next installments!

Corriedale Skeins

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First off, I just want to say thank you to everyone who bought my pattern. Y'all know how to make a girl feel both loved and creative. I'm thinking I might have to hold a contest sometime in the future to celebrate the event. But I haven't quite come up with the right idea yet.

At long last, I have finally finished spinning my madder/cochineal dyed Corriedale roving. I do love Corriedale, I love how it can go from lifeless seeming to delightfully sproingy with just a quick bath. I love how it feels when you spin it. i did not, unfortunately, love spinning this stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm mostly happy with the result, but I would have liked it a lot better if I could have spun a consistant single from it. There were so many un-teasable clumps, little burrs of fiber and bits of VM that eventually I just gave up and decided that if this stuff wanted to be rustic, it was going to be rustic. It kind of took all the joy out of spinning it. By the end, I just wanted to be done with the stuff.

My initial desire was to create a 3 ply yarn. Which I did. But I ended up with 1 empty bobbin and 2 that were about 1/3rd of the way full, so I used those to make a 2 ply. And then I had some single left over on one bobbin. It seemed like a made-to-order blogging opportunity.

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The Three Skeins: Papa Skein, Mama Skein and...oh, Wait, Wrong Story

Thanks to my big bad Lendrum plying head and bobbin I have a 440 yard 3 ply skein. It's roughly DK weight (about 14 wpi) but it drifts into sport weight every now and again. 440 yards is definitely enough to do something with. After doing the washing-after-spinning thing I forgave this fiber a little bit for being such a pain to spin. It's great color and has lovely subtle heathery variations that make me think this yarn should do something that involves cables.

I even have a reasonable amount of the 2 ply skein -- about 200 yards of that (which makes it clear that somehow I didn't balance my bobbins very well). The single? Well, not very much left of that, which is okay, because I'm not exactly sure what I would do with more of that any way.

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1 Single, 3 Yarns: Top: 3 Ply, Middle: 2 Ply, Bottom: Single

The more I spin 3 ply yarns, the more I like them. They are a bit more work than a two-ply, but I just love how they look. With a yarn like this, you get a lot more sense of depth and subtle heathering. Amazing that you can combine three scrawny looking singles to get a happy fluffy three-ply yarn. By the way, this picture is probably the best representation of the true color of the yarn.

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3 Ply Variations

When you look at it this way, it almost looks like professionally spun yarn. I keep picking it up off my desk to squeeze it and admire the gentle blending of the colors. This project has definitely re-inforced one thing for me: I like spinning mostly solid colored fiber. Up to this point, I haven't figured out any real good uses for some of my wild colored hand-painted stuff. What that means is that I'm accumulating more yarn (even if I am not buying much) but not doing anything with it.

But this? This I can imagine knitting into something. I've been wanting to make that Flower Basket Scarf from Interweave Knits that everyone was making a season or so ago. I'll have to do a test swatch, but I think this may knit up pretty close to the recommended gauge. And at 440 yards, I should have just enough -- if the pattern is to be trusted. I need something to get me really insprired to knit something besides socks...

Dragon Sock WPI

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So, I was out shopping this afternoon after getting my facial (convenient, because my aesthetician works out of this lovely little store called Willow not too far north of where I live on Damen). I'd been wanting to find a small notebook with quad-rule paper in it to sketch ideas in. Willow has all sorts of lovely off the beaten track sorts of things (everything from hand bags to jewelry to journals to candles to dishes to -- well, you get the picture), and not only did they have a little journale with graph paper, but it's quite the special little journal with graph paper.

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Jill Bliss Native Flowers Journal and Mix n' Match Stationery

I am now officially in love with Jill Bliss. I've always been a closet paper arts junkie, and her stuff is lovely and functional. I came home with her Native Flowers Journal and Native Flowers Mix n' Match Stationery Set (be sure to click on those links, there's much better stuff to look at than the picture I took!). If that little journal doesn't inspire creative thinking, I don't know what will! And it's the perfect size for me to carry in my bucket bag. And I couldn't resist the stationery. Nifty envelopes. Fun little stickers. Gorgeous floral prints. Prints that I think would be so wonderful in fabric as well.

I've had a couple of people ask me about what other yarns might work for the dragon socks besides the ones I made my models in. So I stole an idea from Bonne Marie and decided to go through my copious sock yarn stash and identify yarns with a similar "wraps per inch" as the Blue Moon Socks that Rock Light and the Blue Moon Sock Candy. Yarns with a similar WPI can generally be easily substituted for each other in terms of expected gauge. It seemed like an excellent little project for the first page of my new journal.

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Sock Yarn WPI in my New Journal

I know this isn't very readable (it's also not in any particular order) so here's my results:

Blue Moon Sock Candy (the "upscale" sock yarn): 17 WPI
Koigu PPM: 17 WPI
Mountain Colors Bearfoot: 17 WPI
"Old" Blue Moon Socks That Rock*: 18 WPI
Blue Moon Socks that Rock Medium: 18 WPI

Blue Moon Socks That Rock Light (the "downscale" sock yarn): 20 WPI
Elann "Sock it To Me" Esprit**: 21 WPI
Lana Grossa Cotton: 21 WPI

Regia: 22 WPI
Opal: 23 WPI
Trekking XXL: 23 WPI
Greenwood Fiberworks Handpainted Cotton Stretch: 24 WPI
Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn: 24 WPI
Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock: 24 WPI

To summarize, for the "upscale"s socks, you can likely substitute either Koigu, Bearfoot, Old Blue Moon STR or STR Medium weight and have no problem getting an equal size sock. I like this set because it gives you a nice range of fiber options. The Sock Candy is a cotton blend, Bearfoot has some mohair in it for a nice warm sock, and Koigu and STR give you that nice soft foot caress that only merino can do!

For "downscale" socks, I only found two yarns that are in the right range, the Elann stretch cotton yarn, Sock it To Me Esprit and Lana Grossa Cotton (this is a wool cotton blend that I like a great deal). That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Vesper Sock Yarn might be a good replacement (I have a skein, but I didn't want to take it apart to measure WPI) as well. I'll be keeping my eyes open for other yarns that are like STR Light.

I've included Regia, Opal, Trekking, Greenwood, Tess' and Lorna's Laces for both completeness and to perhaps help provide an alternative for those of you who would like the "downscaled" socks in a smaller size. I suspect that if you were to knit any of these yarns on US Size 0 (2mm) you'd get a sock in a smaller size. I have not tried any of them, but if you make the socks and decide to try one of these yarns, I'd love to hear how it goes.

If you've got other kinds of sock yarn in your stash and you want to help me build my WPI list for sock yarns, please send me the info. I'll keep a running list and put it someplace where everyone can find it and reference it. It's so hard these days to keep track of all the great sock yarn options.

* By "old" I mean from before there was enough yardage in one skein for a pair of adult socks and before they had a "light", "medium" or "heavy" designation.

** Since this is a Cascade Fixation clone, I suspect that Cascade Fixation would give almost the same results.

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