September 2008 Archives

A Marmalade Sock

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I think one of my favorite things about knitting socks is that I can do anything I want with them.  I have a template in my head now, and I don't have to sweat the details of "what gauge?" or "what needles?" or even "what toe?" and "what heel?"  I know when I start out how those things are going to roll: toe up (no need to really worry about gauge), usually on 2.25 mm needles, short row heel.  With the basics on autopilot, I can focus on other things, namely, what yarn and what stitch pattern I want to use.

I've been lucky to have a long running yarn trade with Emma.  It was Emma, in fact, who helped to give me a big push in the sock knitting direction by sending me my first sock yarn and providing me with a bit of on line knitterly encouragement.  Emma's recent boxes have focused on sock yarn dyed in the UK and I've loved everything that she's sent along.  Unfortunately, I had knit with almost none of it.  Not because I couldn't think of anything to do with it, but because I was worried that what I would do with it wouldn't do it justice. Recently, however, I was able to remind myself that sheep aren't, in fact, going extinct and that even if I just knit plain stockinette in the round socks, I would still be giving myself (or someone else) something quite enjoyable to wear, which is all the justice any skein of sock yarn should really need.

Lately I've been thumbing through my stitch pattern books looking at textures.  I think most textures are a challenge for me because 1) they involve purl stitches and 2) they often don't go well with hand-dyed or self striping yarn.  Don't get me wrong, I am perfectly capable of making a respectable purl stitch, but I find they slow me down when making socks so I often avoid them except for the ribbing at the cuff. But I'm trying to work at being a bit more of a process rather than strictly product knitter these days, and so I decided that this time I would pick one of the more complicated looking stitch patterns that I had my eyes on.

Of course, I decided that the pattern I picked was really incompatible with most of my hand-dyed yarn.I was going to need something reasonably light in color and mostly the same color in order for the texture to show itself off.  My feeling about pattern is that there is no point knitting it into a garment if the yarn obscures it.  And thus, it was, that the perfect yarn for the pattern I wanted to try was a skein of Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn in the most lovely orangey fall "marmalade" colorway.  According to the label this yarn is 100% British Blue Faced Leicester, which adds to the interest for me, because I haven't ever made socks out of BFL before.

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I'm afraid this photo doesn't entirely do justice to the subtle and lovely variations in this yarn.  It has a more heathery effect up close and in person.  I quite like how it carries the texture and shows off the pattern while not getting lost to the pattern stitch.


20080901_MarmaladeSockPatte.jpgA little higher resolution on the pattern stitch so you can see all those fussy purl stitches more clearly.  The purl stitches do slow the process down a bit, but the result is well worth it for me as they help to create not only texture but also depth.

The first sock is finished and I've cast on for the second.  I'll talk a bit more about the experience of knitting with the yarn and the pattern details when the second sock is complete.



Miles and Miles of Yellow Yarn

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Or at least that's what it feels like!  With a healthy boost from the Olympics (and a few MythBusters for good measure) all the big knitting for the Zebra Striper dress is complete.  In all honesty, I really felt that something that too so many tiny stitches should look more impressive at this point.  This is one project that clearly will need a good bit of blocking to make look the way it should. 

But before blocking can commence, I've got one last daunting task to complete. 

20080904_ZebraStriperJog.jpgThat's the jog in the circle where the new colors were joined in.  Since there's no steek in this dress (which is where I think this kind of thing would normally be hidden), I need to go in and tighten things up and sew in ends so that that area looks as neat and tidy as the rest of it.  And I've found the end weaving-in process to be a little more challenging for colorwork than for normal knitting -- those floats across the back mean that I have to work a little harder to see where I'm weaving.

I think there might be a reasonable hope of Ms. Z wearing this little jumper this winter since all that remains after the blocking is some duplicate stitch on the front, knitting on the edging to the armscyes and neck edges, and attaching some buttons and small loops to hold the straps together over her shoulders. 


Reverse Fern Stitch Socks

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Hooray for long weekends.  We snuck in one more trip to enjoy a late summer Michigan weekend and I poured all my free time into finishing the second of my Reverse Fern Stitch socks.  A few commenters asked after the name of this stitch pattern in my last post about these socks.  You can find it in Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of Charted Knitting Designs(truly, if there is one set of essential books in my knitting library it is Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries) -- the Reverse Fern Stitch. 

20080908_StretchedAndNot.jpgThis stitch has a very different look before blocking.  The texture has much more depth if you don't block it out.  I didn't do any blocking because I like to preserve any natural stretchiness I can get in sock fabric, but I thought the difference was interesting and might be food for thought if you were interested in using it in a non-sock garment.

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This pattern is also quite serviceable and interesting when you reverse it.

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If you want to make socks using this pattern, it's not hard to do.  The pattern is 12 x 20 stitch repeat, and I have 6 repeats around (a total of 72 stitches) and 7 repeats in length with a 1.5" 3 x 3 ribbed cuff.  I worked the project on 2.25 mm DP needles (Knit Picks Harmony DPs, which I love!) and created a fabric that is perfect for my foot and leg.  Once you get to where you are knitting the full 6 pattern repeats in the round, you do have to do a few little fiddly things to make the pattern work out, but it's pretty easy (and can be achieved by simply shifting stitches around on your needles) as long as you remember to do it.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the socks, the yarn is Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn in the Marmalade colorway, which makes for a very lovely "Welcome Autumn" socks.  And after completing my socks, (I have a woman's US Size 8 or so foot) I appear to have plenty of yarn left over -- enough, I think for maybe a pair for Ms. Baby, so I think the skein is quite generous even for man feet or larger women's feet.  One comment I will make about the yarn is that it is quite twisty and I found some parts to have a higher level of twist than others.  In no case did it make for any real problems when kniting, but occasionally it got in the way.  Also, this yarn has a lot of lovely natural imperfections in it.  None of them are dramatic, but they all give the yarn a bit more texture and depth.  Again, not a show stopper in the least, but something to keep in mind if you must have a sock yarn that is completely smooth.  Over all I quite like the yarn and thought it was perfect for these socks.  I do believe the label says it prefers hand washing.  I may have to knit a tiny swatch to see if that is really the case.  Realistically, if a sock yarn is hand wash only, the socks in question will get unfortunately little wear in my house.

20080908_ReverseFernStitchP.jpgAs luck would have it, the weather in Chicago got quite fall-like on Monday and these socks got their very first outing rather quickly.  In spite of the lacy little holes, they did quite well keeping my feet happy today.  Neither too warm nor too cold.  So they turned out perfect for their intended use.

The Rogue Gets a Pocket

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Rogue has definitely been on my "hard to put down" list when it comes to knitting projects.  As I've mentioned many times before, I love projects where there is some cable work surrounded by a lot of simple knitting.  I get the fun of working with some texture, but the product knitter in me gets the sheer joy of watching something large come together quickly.

20080911_RogueProgress.jpgNow that I've got the pocket attached, I'm getting to the point where I can imagine wearing this sweater.  And while the weather is still more like summer than fall here in Chicago, the colder weather is just around the corner and it would be really lovely to have a new sweater to welcome in fall (and to celebrate the fact that my post-baby weight loss efforts are paying off).

20080911_RogueSidePanel.jpgI know many of you are already very familiar with this cable, but I am so happy with how this yarn shows them off that I just couldn't resist another picture.

Random Weekend

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Just some random high- and low- lights from the weekend so far:

  • The Zebra Striper dress is blocked I'm working on the finishing.  A four hour nap today let me finish both the duplicate stitch details and most of the neck line edging.  I am getting really excited about finishing this project.
  • I have more skein of the yarn that I need for Rogue than I thought I did.  Fears about not having enough yarn are allayed for the moment.
  • New iPhone firmware update definitely a good thing.
  • Heavy rain all day long kept us from heading out to the Renegade Craft Fair.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better. 
  • Ms. Baby has learned to go downstairs by walking forward and hanging onto the railing.  No place in the house is safe, now.
  • All the recent days rain has resulted into seepage into our basement guest bedroom.  Nasty mildew under some bookcases.  Looks like we will be doing some unplanned remodeling.  Sigh.  I wanted tile in that room, but really didn't want to start that project now.  Anyone know a good, reliable mason in Chicago?
  • John's big home media computer upgrade hasn't gone quite as planned.  Our Sage server (a DVR that supports the whole house) is unavailable.  No Alton Brown or Mythbusters to knit to.
Time to do some therapeutic cabling, I think.

Zebra Striper on the Board

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Holy moly!  A million miles of yellow stitches finished and blocked. Blocking color work is almost as much fun as blocking lace.  It's nice to see it relax into a smooth form and have all the stitches even out. 

You might wonder how cleaning up the join area worked out.

20080915_ZebraStriperJoin.jpgUnfortunately it looks a little strange  because of the crease in the fabric from flattening the dress for blocking, but, all in all, I think it's a decent first effort.  It took some patience on my part to get it to be relatively neat looking, but I think it was well worth the time.

There's not much more to work on now.  I've got to duplicate stitch the motif on the front and knit on the neck and armhole edgings. With any luck, Ms. Z could be having a photo shoot with this little dress before the month is out.

A Sweater Revisited

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This little jacket never got a proper photo shoot when I completed it.  Ms. Z has gotten rather larger than when she first tried it on and when we were out to take in the Renegade it was pretty clear there would only be a few more wearings left since she's gotten so big.  So I made sure I got a few last pictures to celebrate the jacket and the baby who is well on her way to becoming a vibrant and vocal toddler.

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Getting dressed before we headed out -- the sleeves aren't too long anymore!

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A much nicer showing for the jacket, I think!  Outdoor light, a happy weekend and an active baby.

This weekend we had wonderful guests -- Z had a playmate her exact same age (just a day older) to pal around with.  We had a lot great baby adventures but not much time for knitting or blogging.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.   More in progress shots on my next post.


Flattened Rogue

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The Rogue, she is coming a long.  I've moved past the point where the whole body of the sweater can be worked at the same time and now have the back and left front completed.   It's interesting to see the sweater spread out like this.  I don't think I've ever done such a large sweater ths way.  I will say that it's a lot of wool to have in your lap at the end of a very warmish September. 

So far, this sweater is progressing very quickly.  I know it doesn't seem like it from my posting schedule, but when I get time to sit down and work on it, it really does feel like it's just screaming along.  At this point, I'm just a right front and a hood away from having all the main knitting done (I did the sleeves before casting on for the body) so I'm beginning to feel like the home stretch is near.  Once I get the right front done, I may do a little blocking so that I can take a good measurement for the zipper.  Then I can order the zipper (it will definitely be one of those nice heavyweight two-way  zippers) so that it can be on it's way to me while I work on the hood. 

At this point, unless the hood takes up way more yarn than I think it will, I should have no concerns about having enough yarn.  After the right front is done, I should still have two full skeins of the Bartlett's ready to go, so I won't have to spend any time being concerned about undoing swatches to eek out that last little bit of yarn I need for the I-cord edging.

Thank you to everyone who left such sweet words about Z and her Circles sweater.  I am totally biased, but I just think she keeps getting more and more adorable every day, especially now that she's finally getting some hair in.  She is transforming from a baby into a little girl right in front of my eyes.  It's an amazing thing to watch, but I keep wishing she'd slow down a little bit since I'm enjoying her at this age so much. 

Simple Cotton Socks Finally Finished

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Nothing like a 4 hour car ride to lull a toddler to sleep and to help Mama get some knitting finished up.  These socks are nothing complicated, but it's always nice to add a new pair of hand knit socks to the sock drawer.  I like to think that every pair I knit helps to increase the lifespan of every other pair in the drawer since I have more pairs to choose from. 

20080929_SimpleCottonSocksS.jpgIt's interesting to note that I am getting to the point where the handknit socks are beginning to outnumber the commercial socks in my drawer.  Except when it comes to cotton socks.  I really just haven't found enough cotton-based yarns that I like to knit with.  The cotton wool blends (I've tried some Meilenweit and Sockotta and Blue Moon yarn of this nature) end up being a little too stiff for pleasurable knitting and the cotton elastic ones tend to make me a little crazy when it comes to keeping them tensioned and preventing laddering.  The cotton elastic blends also seem like many of them are a bit thicker than standard sock yarn, making wearing them with lighter weight shoes a bit harder.   

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This yarn from Greenwood Fiberworks comes just about as close as I've found to a yarn that I would knit with again.  If I had a wool sensitivity, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd have a huge stash of the stuff.  It's thinner that the standard cotton-elastic blends (Cascade Fixation, Elann Esprit) and I always think it's a plus to be able to buy from a small dyer instead of a large corporation.  But, truth be told, while it's a lovely yarn that is well dyed and I very much like how it has a little bit of the self-striping action going on, I just don't think cotton yarns are going to end up being "my thing" when it comes to knitting socks. 

Now that these are complete (after more than a year) it's time for me to figure out what will be my next pair of simple stockinette socks.  With winter fast approaching, it may be time to make another pair for my public transportation-taking husband -- a man for whom the temperature of his feet really does determine his overall comfort level.  I've been accumulating a little stash of man-friendly STR for the occasion.  And even when it's almost solid or a very dark colorway, it's hard to complain about knitting with STR.  Especially when it's already met with man-foot approval for cold Chicago winters. 

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