November 2009 Archives

Little Kroy Socks

20091101_KroyStripesLittleS.jpgPattern: The Keyboard Biologist's Basic Toe Up Sock*
Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks Stripes in "Mulberry Stripes"
Needles: 2.5 mm Darn Pretty DPs

On my last trip into Joann Fabrics, I took Ms. Z back into the yarn section.  While Joann's is not my usual locale for yarn shopping, lately I've been surprised to find some pretty decent yarn tucked in and amongst the acrylic.  In something that I took to be a show of remarkable education on Ms. Z's part, she ignored most of the fuzzy acrylic stuff and got very excited when we came to a patch of self-patterning sock yarn.  Since she had been good the entire trip to the store, and since the yarn was on sale, I told her that she could pick two skeins (all of the last batch of socks I made for her are now too small) and I would make her socks. 

The Kroy was the first skein she grabbed at.   The yarn is 75% wool, 25% nylon and is a little thicker than most sock yarn that I knit with (but not by much), so I cast on to US 1.5's instead of my usual 1's.  It's not completely obvious from the picture, but these socks are almost exactly identical twins.  It was nice to knit with, and I got a very nice, warm, thick fabric, perfect for baby feet.  At this point, Zosia just barely wears a size 7 child's shoe, so socks for her are still a quick knit -- especially in this yarn.  Because the yarn is a bit thicker, there's a bit less in a 50 g ball.  I'd estimate that this little pair of socks used up about 2/3rds of the skein. 

She was very excited after the first one was finished -- and then a bit disappointed that she didn't have two to try on.  So I cranked the second one out as fast as I could.  She got them on Thursday, and they've been on her feet more than they've been off since then.

I think the patterning in these socks  is quite nice -- almost wouldn't mind having a pair myself.  But the real proof will be in the washing and wearing to see how the yarn and the colors hold up. 

I've started on the second pair... baby socks seem to be like potato chips for me!

* Magic cast on, 8 stitches.  Increase 4 stitches every other row until 40 stitches around.  Short row heel down to 8 stitches, straight stockinette leg, about an inch of K2P2 ribbing for cuff.  Stretchy bind off.  


Zebra Striper Sweater Assembly


My own version of a photo essay documenting the finishing of the Zebra Striper Sweater.

20091103_ZSAssem1.jpgThe first sleeve

Pretty Sleeve Join

20091103_ZSAssem3.jpgPretty Sleeve Facing Sewn Down

20091103_ZSAssem4.jpgSecond Sleeve

20091103_ZSAssem5.jpgBottom Hem Sewn Down

20091103_ZSAssem6.jpgPretty Sweater Edge

20091103_ZSAssem7.jpgNeckband Start

This is actually going a bit faster than I expected it to.  After I complete the knitting for the neckband and sew down the facing edge, then only the two front edges remain before button shopping can occur in earnest.  I do like all the clean edges in this little sweater, even if getting the setting in of the sleeve started is a little bit fussy.  Fussy or not, though, it's nice to watch this turn from a shapeless sack into a boxy little sweater.  I am still convinced that they must grow Norwegian babies larger than they do over here, but at least that guarantees more than a few months of wear!

Thank you all for the the comments about the little socks.  I highly recommend the knitting of little socks for instant gratification knitting!

If it Wasn't For Neat Yarn...

...sometimes I just wouldn't have anything to talk about.

20091105_SockClubVesper.jpgPretty, Pretty Vesper Sock Yarn

I consider myself fortunate and fast on the click to have gotten in on the Fall 2009 Vesper Sock Club.  The first installment arrived last week: a skein of kettle dyed yarn called "Midnight Air" .  This yarn could also be fairly named "Favorite Old Blue Jeans", because that is what it makes me think of.  When you look at it, the colors are very evocative of the faded blues you see in a well worn pair of jeans.  It's possible that this could end up becoming socks, but right now its speaking to me about being something I could wear around my neck.  I've been into blues and purples when it comes to my wardrobe these days, and I think it would look lovely paired with a chocolate colored turtleneck (my go to top when it starts to get chilly out).

The Zebra Striper sweater continues apace.  I've gotten started on the button bands, so I feel like I am now in the home stretch for this project.  There most l likely will be a trip out in search of buttons on Saturday morning. 

Looking at the project queue...

  •  I've promised myself that the next project to be completed, come hell or high water, is going to be Rogue (how appropriate that my last entry for this project was November 8, 2008).  I started this project in the Fall of 2006, and while I know I'm not in contention for any "longest WIP ever" prizes,  it's making me crazy that it's so close to completion (I-cord edging for one side, sleeves to be set in, zipper to be sewn in) and hasn't crossed the finish line.  
  • After that, I think it's going to be the Francie socks
  • And then probably my Kushu Kushu Scarf.  Both projects are close to the finish line and just need a little effort and patience to get them completed. 
  • After that, I want to find some skeins of Mountain Colors 3 Ply Targhee to use to complete my blanket.  It's not going to be quite as random as I had hoped, because I don't seem to be able to get my hands on any more bits and bobs of mill ends.  So I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a "solid" (read single colorway) background and throw my current squares into it randomly, or get a broad collection of skeins and try to maintain some of the random idea.
Of course, this doesn't include any of the new projects I want to start.  But I've told myself that until I knock of Rogue and the Francie socks, there will be no new projects.  We'll see how well my will power holds out on that one!

And the Zebra Striper Sweater... she continues.

20091108_ZSAssem8.jpgA Collar Completed

20091108_ZSAssem9.jpgButton Band

20091108_ZSAssem10.jpgNeck Band and Button Band Join

Button Positions Marked

Marking Button Hole Locations

I decided to post this last picture because I thought it might be of value to discuss how the buttons are positioned and the button holes located.

After you finish the button band (which is pretty straightforward picking up stitches and knitting a bit, knitting a turning row and then knitting the facing and sewing it down) you have to position the buttons.  The pattern suggests locations for the top and bottom buttons, but the rest have to be evenly spaced between.  I positioned the first two buttons and marked the positions by threading a piece of green yarn where I would sew in the button.   Then I measured the distance between them, and divided the distance by the number of buttons to add plus 1 (this is the number of intervals between the button) and used that number to determine the distance between the remaining buttons and the edge buttons -- and marked those locations with the green yarn as well.

After that, I started on the button hole band.  After 1 cm of knitting you have to place the button holes to correspond with the buttons.  I pinned the sweater edges together to make sure the top and bottom of the bands were even, and then I used pins to mark the stitch that corresponded to the green marker on the button band.  Since the button hole involved casting off three stitches, I used coil-less safety pins to mark the stitch plus the stitches on either side of it for casting off. 

I'm now a bit past the turning row on the button band, so I've started to think about buttons.  I am thinking about the following options:

  1. Go simple: 6 red buttons that are a close match to the button band and blend into the background of the sweater.
  2. Go simple but contrasting: 6 pink buttons that match the pink stripes in the background of the sweater and pop out from the button band a bit -- but not too much.
  3. Go bold:  really work the zebra theme: alternate black and white buttons and mirror the zebra stripes and the black and white trim detail.
Opinions anyone?  I'm leaning strongly towards the third option at the moment.

One Little Sock

20091110_LittleBambooSock.jpgWhile I consider the issue of buttons (right now, it looks like it is going to be either all black or all red, since I didn't find any other buttons that I liked when I went out button shopping today) and finish sewing down the button hole band and edging the button holes in buttonhole stitch, I'm working on a second pair of socks for Z. 

The yarn is "Sensations" Bamboo and Ewe Pattern (I believe Sensations is the Joann "house brand"). The yarn is 55% wool, 30% nylon and 15% bamboo rayon.  The yarn has a nice hand, and I thought the colors were bright and cheery and perfect for a kid sock.  So far, I haven't identified any clear pattern repeat, so these socks are going to end up fraternal -- which I don't think will bother Ms. Z.

Last Little Zebra Striper Steps

And the last steps in the process... (I wish these pictures were a little better... my time has been more limited by the fact that it's dark so early now, so these were all shot while I was trying to run out the door on my way to work).

20091112_ZSAssem13.jpgButton holes!

20091112_ZSAssem15.jpgSewn Down Button Hole Band

Button Hole Detail

Button Hole Band Joined to Bottom Band

Black Buttons and Backstitched Button Hole

So, clearly you can see that I went for all black buttons.  I loved the idea of zebra striped buttons or zebra shaped buttons, but they didn't materialize when I went button shopping, and I found my options very limited in the size and type that I needed.  I wanted shank buttons for this sweater so that I could conceal the threads used to sew the buttons down (Z has a tendency to fidget and chew on stray threads) and because they create a little more depth between the bottom of the button and the button band, which is important because the button hole band is actually quite thick. 

The pattern called for the button holes to be edged in button hole stitch, but I didn't like the look of that at all, and it narrowed the button opening so much it made it hard to deal with the buttons, so I just backstitched them.  The back side isn't quite as neat as it might have been with the button hole edging, but the back side won't be seen very much, and this edging is probably creates a more robust button hole opening. 

Obviously, this means that the sweater is done... but I don't want to do it's big reveal until I have time to get the sweater in action -- hopefully with the dress -- this weekend.  Think sunny thoughts for us this weekend!

Zebra Striper and Ms. Z


20091115_ZebraSweaterUnworn.jpgProject: Zebra Striper Sweater from Dale of Norway "Favorite Baby Designs"
Yarn: Dale of Norway Baby Ull, Various Colors
Needles: 2.5 and 2.0 mm Circular and DPs

I now have an incredible appreciation for people who have to photograph clothing on small children.  It's so hard to get them to face the right direction and look at you at the same time.  I chased Z around for the better part of an hour on Saturday -- lucky for us the weather was stunning and the little sweater actually got some sunshine to go along with the baby action.

As you can see, it's quite large on her.  The sleeves are much too long, and the shoulders are quite broad.  But loose is good when you're a toddler on the move.  And large means that it could possibly last beyond this season.  Which would make this momma knitter very happy indeed.

20091115_ZebraSweaterCuffs.jpgOf course, during our "photoshoot" the one place she wanted to be was the dirtiest place in the park -- the baseball diamond.  She's fascinated with dirt right now, and drawing in it.  I guess it's a good think that Baby Ull is superwash wool.

One thing that makes me quite pleased, is that you would be hard pressed from a distance to tell that the sweater is handmade.  I think I did a bang up job with neat seaming and weaving in ends.  About the only thing that would make you notice (if you got up close) is that the motifs aren't quite centered on the front.  This was one of those "read the instructions" bits that I didn't do as well as I should have (because they were in the front of the pattern section, not with the pattern), but, in the end, marks the sweater as something made by a loving person and not a machine.

I don't have a lot more to say about this little sweater than I already have in the series of construction posts.  I'm very happy with the black buttons.  This was a fabulous introduction to both colorwork and steeking.  In fact, steeking was in no way as scary as I thought it was going to be and I can't wait to try it out on a larger sweater project.

As far as this pattern is concerned, I found it quite easy to follow.  I think the instructions are clear, but sometimes you need to read very carefully to make sure that you follow the whole train of thought.  I did have to refer to some internet tutorials to help with the steeking process -- mostly I wanted a few more visuals to make sure that I was handling the machine stitching the right way.  While it can get a bit tedious knitting a sweater on tiny needles with tiny yarn, if you want to try out colorwork and/or steeking, this is the perfect sort of project to get your feet wet on.  The amount of colorwork is actually quite small relative to the rest of the sweater and, since it is a small project, I think there's a little less fear when it comes to the "cutting your knitting" part.

Before I had children, I could never understand the point of knitting them anything complicated. What was the point when the recipient wouldn't really understand the work that went into it and would grow out of it so quickly.  When I see Ms. Z in this sweater, it makes me so happy inside, I forget all about how much time it took me and the fact that there will be a time that this little sweater will be relegated to the "outgrown" pile -- and then I start trying to figure out what I am going to make for her next.



This post, or lack thereof, is brought to you by Dragon Age: Origins.  If you've been following me for a while, you probably already know I have an incredible weakness for computer role playing games, especially those developed by BioWare.  Well, last week I discovered that Dragon Age: Origins had been released and I had my posterior in Best Buy and a copy of the game in my hot little hands faster than you can say "Magic Missile".

I wasn't really expecting it to suck me in and refuse to let go like it has.  I can't remember the last time a game kept me up until 3 in the morning.  The graphics may be a little dated (compared to current first person shooters) but the story is spectacular and the non-player characters, their dialog and interactions, in a word, are incredible.  My mage is not the only one who has a serious crush on Alistair... (I dare almost anyone to play this game and not wish that he wasn't just made up of cute electrons!)

The game is incredibly expansive and involving... I've played for 30 hours (according to the game clock) and I've only played through 9% of the game.   Some of that is because I was playing on my elderly laptop which can just barely play the game.   Bless my sweet husband who actually let me put it on his home theatre PC where the graphics card is much better and the performance much improved (I can play it at highest resolution with all the graphics goodies turned up) -- I should be able to move a bit more faster... though this game is, I think, going to be like one of those good books that I don't really want to end.

Sad as it may sound, knitting has been pretty low on my priority list since this game arrived.  I have darkspawn to slay, a world to unite and intrigue to uncover...

(Don't worry... I'm sure my character has her +5 addi turbos along to keep her company and won't let me forget that I have a few real life projects to work on).

Thank you to everyone who left me such nice comments about Z's new sweater and Z herself.  As I've said many times, I'm pretty fond of that baby girl.  Knitting special things for her is a pleasure!

Fantasy and Reality

So my fantasy
Becomes reality
And I must be what I must be
And face tomorrow.
-- from Simon & Garfunkel, "Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall"

Ever since I was a teenager, I have found myself able to get emotionally entangled with books and good stories.  My first journeys to Middle Earth in the Tolkein books were a prime example. I was unable to put them down because I had been so pulled in that I would be physiologically impacted until I finished them.  And after I would read them, I would devour everything I could find to help me understand that world, stay there a little longer.  Even though I'm a pretty high maintenance creature who would never do well in a conventional medieval fantasy setting (hello, indoor running water required, thank you very much), it doesn't take very much to get me to the place where I want to be saturated with elven lore and believe in magic.   I think this is why I liked Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere so much... a modern person transported into a world of the bizarre and somewhat magical. 

When I was in high school, I read fantasy voraciously... Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Katherine Kurtz, Raymond Feist, Robert Lynn Aspirin, Roger Zelazny, Stephen Brust, Christopher Stasheff, Stephen R. Donaldson and many many more lined my shelves.  As I got older, if I got a magick-using fantasy world combined with a good boy meets girl storyline, I was not only hooked, but emotionally invested.  I would wrap up these books and immediately be at the bookstore looking for the next installment.  I wanted to know where those characters were going.  Wanted them to be real, a little bit. Borders Bookstore started in Ann Arbor (my home town) at one incredibly fabulous location.  I was always camped out there hunting down my favorite authors.  Sometimes it would take a day or two for me to break loose of the connection I had made to the book.  Since high school wasn't one of those times of my life that I would willingly go back to, I'm pretty sure that these fantasy worlds gave me a place to go to where I could believe in a different world, instead of one populated by mean teenage girls.

As I've gotten older, it's harder and harder for me to get to that fully absorbed place.  I still like a good tour through a fantasy world, but I don't get connected unless it's particularly real.  Computer role playing games weren't all that available when I was in high school, but I developed a real passion for them in grad school and beyond.  Now, not only could I read about a world, I could put myself in it.  As graphics and other production values for these games get better, I can almost feel like I am there... and those strong physiological effects of emotional connection are back...

It's funny for me to be writing this.  I'm a scientist, eh?  Someone trained to want to understand reality in great detail.  Someone who has a vested interest in developing technology and loves to roll around in the glow of the latest technological gadget.  Makes me feel like sometimes I am two different people.   The pragmatic technologist and the romantic dreamer.  It's also funny to me to think that at the same time as I am feeling emotionally engaged by a video game -- technology pulling me into fantasy -- there's also a part of me stepping back from it, analyzing myself and the neurology of this behavior, reminding me that, unlike when I was a teenager, my forty year old self has too many responsibilities to indulge in a pure flight of fantasy.  A little unsure of what to make of the fact that I am not completely in control of the response.

There was a time in my life that I would have been embarrassed to admit all this, but this time, I seem to have gotten myself to a place where instead of being a bit disturbed and disoriented by my response, I'm kind of embracing it -- it's kind of neat that to ride some emotional highs and lows, to lose myself a little bit and get to be someone else entirely.  Sometimes losing myself helps me find things about myself that I had forgotten were there.  Gets me inspired, shakes me up, reminds me how driven I can be when something really grabs my attention, and that I shouldn't give up on the idea that I can make a difference in the world. 

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this post, so please forgive me the rambling.  One of those "found things" seems to be to get out there and do some more creative writing, tell some more stories about myself, move words around in pleasing ways.  Perhaps in the next weeks, more of that sort of stuff will show up here as Dragon Age continues. 

As an aside, there actually is a character in Dragon Age (an older, female mage -- ah, stereotypes -- but at least she is a pretty tough, non-typical older woman) that talks about "making fuzzy blankets with animals on them" and "slippers with pom poms" -- knitters, apparently, can be found on both sides of the reality divide.

Little Socks


In spite of my current computer game crush, I've managed to find a little time to finish up the socks I started for Ms. Z.

20091122_SensationSocks.jpgPattern: My Own Standard Sock
Yarn: Sensations Bamboo & Ewe Pattern, Color #1434
Needles: US Size 1 DPs

Please forgive the poor lighting.  I hate taking pictures this time of year, because if I don't get to them before 4 pm, it's almost too dark to take anything that I think is good.   Luckily, the color isn't really all that off -- perhaps just a little more yellow than they would have been in natural light.

The small recipient was happy to put them on -- she yanked off the socks she was wearing as fast as she could when I told her they were ready.  They are a little roomy in the toes still, but not so roomy as to cause problems for her, so I'd call these socks a win in the size department.

The sock on the left is the second sock -- and now you can see where the pattern repeat picks up -- right after that big block of orange.  Fraternal socks didn't seem to create any issues for Z and I like how the couple inch shift makes them look different but clearly related.

This yarn was pleasant to knit with, so I'm going to be interested to see how it stands up to active baby wear and washing.  At $6/skein, it's very affordable.  I don't think there's another whole pair of socks in there for her (at this point she wears about a size 7 toddler shoe size -- she has small feet for a kid her age), but there still is a fair amount left for something else.

On a different note, I really appreciated all the comments I got on Friday's post.  I think one of the best things about living in a technological world, as opposed to a fantasy world, is that we have the magic of communication far beyond our immediate social circle.  It will never cease to amaze me how the Internet allows me to meet and talk and share ideas with people who are so geographically separated.   Right now I'm bobbing up and down in the ocean of immersion... moving back and forth between worlds.  Admittedly, I'm a little OCD about it at the moment, but it's been a long, long time since I had a game pull me in like this -- and no doubt it will be a long time before I find another one that has the same impact.

Sock Order

On Saturday night, John and I watched our three nieces while my brother- and sister-in-law went out to celebrate their anniversary.  Their three children are 6, 4 and 1 -- a nice range and a good complement to Z, who fits right in between the youngest and the middle child.  I was expecting chaos, but, instead, we had a very nice evening watching movies, eating popcorn and talking about knitting.

Yes, you heard me correctly, talking about knitting.  Well, at least the 6 year old and I did.

While the kids watched a movie, I sat down on the couch to finish off the second one of Z's socks.  Surprisingly the 6 year old (Ms. O) sat down on the couch next to me.  I say surprisingly, because given the chance, all of these kids love to be with John.  But she was clearly intrigued by what I was working on.

O: Ciocia Theresa, what are you working on?

Me: I'm knitting a sock.

O: Who's it for?

Me: Z.

O: Did she ask you for it?

Me: Yes, she did.

There was a pause in the action while she watched some of the movie and ate some popcorn.

O: Ciocia Theresa, is this yarn?

Me: Yes, it is.  It's sock yarn.

O: How does it do that? 
(referring to the color patterning)

Me:  Well it's colored in a particular way.  As you use knit with it, it turns into stripes.

O: How does knitting work?

(Having one of those "oh wow" moments, but trying not to sound too excited, lest I scare her off). Well, you kind of go round and a round in a circle pulling loops through other loops.  And eventually it makes a fabric.

There's some more discussion about yarn and knitting and the fairy wings that I made her (that she loves).  Another pause.  Clearly some thinking is going on about what to say next.

O: I like this yarn, Ciocia Theresa.  Do you make socks for other people?

Me: Yes.  I make them for Uncle John and me.

O: If I asked you for socks, would you make me some?

(Chuckling) Yes.

O:  Ciocia Theresa, would you make me a pair of socks?

Me:  You bet.

After that, when she got bored with the movie, we headed to where my stash was and I let her pick out some yarn (some Opal I have with blue and pink and white stripes -- she's a girly girl) and we talked about what she wanted: short socks that you could fold down into a cuff.   We measured her feet  and I took notes so that I could  work out the dimensions.  About 10 minutes later, and in roughly 15 minutes intervals afterwards... 

O: Ciocia, when are you going to start my socks?

This cracked me up, but made me happy.  Her feet are barely bigger than Z's so it will take no time at all to make a nice pair of ribbed socks.  Even though she was clearly thinking she was being sneaky about getting something, it's hard not to be happy when a child has enjoyed one hand knit gift and actively wants another one. 

I think this Christmas might be the one where Ms. O gets an introductory knitting kit.  And some socks.

If anyone has any good suggestions about books for young knitters, I'd be obliged.  She's just learning to read, so it needs to be simple, with good illustrations.

Color Therapy

This is the time of year in the mid-western US when a few hours of non-grey skies during any given day feels like a gift.  Not only does it start getting dark around the depressingly early hour of 4 pm, but the clouds roll in, and even if it doesn't rain or snow, they don't roll out.  And with all the living flora having given up it's leaves, died or gone into hibernation until spring, it can start to feel pretty dreary.  When late fall starts to give way to early winter in Chicago, nature is fading and you've got to find other ways to bring color into your life.

20091129_VesperKaleidoscope.jpgI like it best when that color bursts in on you as a little bit of a surprise.  Sure, I know I have a Vesper sock club membership, but monthly installments give you just enough time to forget that you have it, and then be pleasantly surprised when something absolutely amazing and wonderful shows up in your mailbox. 

This burst of color is the called "Kaleidoscope" and it's the sock club colorway for November, 2009.  When I opened up this little package today, it was like having a burst of summer blast back into the room.  My first thought when I saw it, though I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it: This yarn is all for me!  I'm not sharing with anyone!  Yes, I like it that much!  The only real question is: feet or neck?  I'm in love!  It's like having a Wee Skein Kit all in one skein!

Thank you for all the suggestions for kids knitting.  Sounds like I'm going to have to get my hands on both the Lucinda Guy and Melanie Falick books and see for myself.   I'd like to give her one of those books along with a pair of US 8 straight needles and a couple of skeins of Cascade 220 superwash and then see if I can't help her get started on a garter stitch scarf.  It was very nice to hear that some of you have started with children younger than 6 and had good success.


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