Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FO Double Post: Socks!

I recently got bit by the sock-knitting bug. This was due in a large part to the Socks With Sarah KAL going on over at Knitting Sarah, and all of the social media pouring out of that effort. A lot of the knitting bloggers I follow are participating, and the flood of sock posts got my fingers itching to see what all the fuss was about. Today, I have not one but TWO finished sock projects to share with you, and I can firmly say that I "get it" - socks are a lot of fun!

A recent discovery of mine is that while my local library may not have a plethora of knitting books on its shelves, we belong to a consortium of local libraries and between all of them, there are quite a few interesting books available. I just returned Clara Parke's "The Knitters Book of Socks", which I thoroughly enjoyed, and currently have the following checked out:

You could say I'm a little bit obsessed. It's OK. Really.


First up, we have Darjeeling by Cat Bordhi (from "The Knitter's Book of Socks").

These were knit in Malabrigo Sock, colorway "Lotus", and they are fabulous. I had so much fun knitting them, and as finished socks they are beautiful, comfortable, and warm. They are just the right height to peek out of my slouchy boots when worn over tights under a knee-length skirt. Bonus points for fitting in my shoes properly - I've heard that a lot of knitters have trouble wearing their hand-knit socks, as they are thicker than commercial socks and don't fit in their shoes. I happen to be a huge fan of really cushioned socks normally, so my shoes are quite accommodating! 

This was a fun and fairly simple pattern to knit, although it does run large. I have what I consider to be large feet (size 11 US Women's, often wide) but the Medium of this pattern is a tad loose on me (and yes, I did have correct gauge). A trip through the dryer tightened things up and thankfully didn't destroy the socks in the process, but if you are considering this pattern I'd suggest going down a size from what you think you need. 

It's hard to see in these pictures, but the heel is shaped by a triangular "expansion" on the underside of the foot, with a short-row heel & flap that gradually eats up the extra stitches. It's clever, but I think it might fit better on someone with a tall arch. Still, fun to work and not very difficult at all. 

The whole sock is done in a variety of patterns that only require simple knits and purls. It is worked from the toe-up, and I knit them 2-at-a-time. The result is beautiful and looks much more complicated than it is. Malabrigo's yarns are gorgeous, as always. This is only my second time knitting with them, and I have to say: if you have not knit with one of their yarns yet, you are missing out. 

These socks were completed in 8 days for my Ravellenics project. You can find my project page here.


Second, we have Rye by tincanknits, from "The Simple Collection". The Simple Collection is really neat - tincanknits put together a set of 8 basic patterns with full learn-to-knit instructions. The patterns start out easy, with a baby blanket and scarf, and progress up to an adult-sized sweater. So far I highly recommend this as a resource for anyone wanting to learn. Check it out here! But anyway, back to the socks:

These are worsted-weight "boot socks", as I would call them. I am wearing them RIGHT NOW and they are incredibly warm and cushy. I like them very much! These were knit in Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, left over from the sweater I made for Andrew this fall. For this pair, I started out with the Adult Medium size, but soon realized that would be way too big. Not a problem - since these are knit top-down, I decided to go for a slightly longer cuff and decrease as I went down to fit around my calf. 

Rye would be an excellent pattern for anyone learning to make socks for the first time. Heel construction is still confusing to me (I've now made 4 total pairs of socks in my lifetime), and the pattern does an excellent job of laying out exactly what you are doing. I had some math issues on the heel short-rows, but I'm convinced (for the moment) that it was my fault and not the pattern. Everything worked out fine in the end.

By the way, do you like my DIY sock blockers? I used a couple of cheap wire hangers and shaped them to look similar to other sock blockers I had seen. Unfortunately the wire coating flaked off when it was bent, so I had to cover portions of the blockers in tape so they wouldn't rust or catch on the knitting. As a result the tape kindof catches on the knitting. Oh well, I'm still glad they were free!

Why knit socks?

If you're still on the fence about knitting socks, I highly recommend just giving it a try. Each of the sock books I mentioned at the beginning of this post are very inspiring - we now have the luxury of knitting socks for fun, but this really was a necessity at one time, and the amount of engineering and history and expertise contained in the basic sock patterns we have today is marvelous to think about. Someone had to figure out for the first time how to turn a heel. Now we have oodles of methods to choose from, but they all had to be discovered. Grafting the toe shut (when knitting top-down socks) was revolutionary. Feet are oddly-shaped objects, and it's a fun engineering challenge to create something that fits them just right. Socks are also small, portable, and provide quick and easy ways to try out new stitch patterns. 

If you feel inspired, hop on over to the Friends of Knitting Sarah group on Ravelry and join in! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

May the odds be ever in your favor

Well hi there! It's been a while. Last week was spent mostly stressing out about the number of projects I was trying to keep track of at work, as well as other non-work commitments. Generally, I tend to be lax about time management, as things usually 'just work out'. But every now and then, that attitude gets me into trouble, when the demands on my time add up to more than my "I can handle it by not handling it" threshold. Unfortunately I think my stressing out was enough to knock out my immune system just long enough to slam me with a terrible cold this week. And to top it all off, it's blizzarding outside today. Not fun. But enough about that; let's talk about something that is fun!

The Ravellenics

This year I am participating in the Ravellenics for the first time. The Ravellenics, or Ravellenic Games, is an international fiber-crafting challenge that coincides with the Olympics. (You can read about why the  name is a little less-than-obvious here.) Start a project during the opening ceremony - something that is challenging to you - and work to finish that project by the end of the closing ceremonies. Join a team, share your progress with others, and root for your nation's Olympic competitors while you work. There are different 'events' to enter, such as 'Flying Camel Spin' (spinning competition, from fleece to finished yarn) or the 'Hat Halfpipe' (knit or crochet a hat). It's a great way to meet other people in the fiber-crafting internet world. Fun, right? 

I've joined Team Sasquatch, which is for anyone who listens to fiber-related podcasts. For my events, I've chosen two: 'Aerial Unwind', which involves frogging (unravelling) a long-dormant project that I *know* is not going to work out, and 'Sock Hocky', which requires me to begin and finish an entire pair of socks by the closing ceremony. 

My 'Aerial Unwind' entry is already finished. Remember this shawl-in-progress from my WIPs Roundup post?

There were so many problems with this project...it had been sitting in a bag for months and months, and finally I was OK with letting it go. 

All done, and off of my mind. An enabler for this project was finally building a PVC 2-yard Niddy-Noddy! It is fantastic and has already seen quite a bit of use. As you'll notice, in the first picture the yarn is all kinked up from being in a crocheted state for so long. After I unwound the project, I wound half of the yarn onto the Niddy-Noddy and steamed it using a tea-kettle. After it dried, the yarn was straightened out and good-as-new (you can see it behaving quite nicely in the front-most skein). The process was repeated for the second half, which is pictured still on the Niddy-Noddy so that you can see how it is used.  

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my sock-knitting progress:

from the fuzzy cast-on

to some discernable progress

to my current state, after the heel-turn.

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying knitting on these socks. (The pattern is Darjeeling by Cat Bordhi, and it is really quite clever.) It shouldn't really surprise me - the project is super portable, the needles I'm using (Addi Turbo's) are excellent, the yarn (Malabrigo Sock in Lotus) is beautiful, the pattern is fun, progress is relatively quick because they are so small and I knit fast, and the knitting is tiny and I love all things miniature. Plus, seams on sock toes really bother me and I'm excited by the prospect of warm, soft, woolen socks with no seams to give me blisters in my shoes.

I'm enjoying it so much, in fact, that I also joined the SocksWithSarah knit-a-long. The idea of this KAL is to incorporate socks into your daily knitting; simple as that. You can use any pattern, and Sarah has created a great, supportive community which you can check out here if you like. I have a lot of random fingering-weight yarn in my stash now, enough neckwear to last me for a while, and my feet are always cold - so, sock knitting it is! I've created a "sock club 2014" tab in my Ravelry queue to keep track of patterns that I already have in my library that I'd like to make. Suggestions for others are welcome!

If you live on the East Coast, I hope you are staying safe and warm during this storm. I will hopefully be back soon - there are several FOs to share with you!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Today on a Saturday

Ah, Saturday. No plans except a celebratory dinner for a friend's graduation, abundant sunshine, and a fresh disk of Castle re-runs from the library - plenty of time to work on all of my crafty works-in-progress and maybe start a few more.

Today I am:

...harvesting denim from my massive stockpile of old jeans, to finally make a denim quilt. This has been in the works for YEARS, and it's time to either get a move on it or stop lugging a million pairs of old jeans around. Get a move on it is!

...finishing my Spill The Wine cowl, which I forgot to blog about when I started. 

This cowl starts in on color with a provisional cast-on, then switches to a second color for a shorter lace portion. The end of the lace is then grafted back to the cast-on, creating a seamless, two-sided cowl with no wrong sides. Genius! 
Yellow: Baah! La Jolla in Byzantine Gold; Grey: Valley Yarns Charlemont custom-dyed by me
Raveled here.

...frogging the cowl on my sister's sweater. I finished the sleeve, made the cowl, tried it on and realized the cowl was way too tight. I didn't pick up enough stitches so it fits like a turtleneck, even though the neck opening is a wide scoop. 

...and daydreaming about casting on a pair of socks with this beauty, a skein of Malabrigo Sock in Lotus. I've swatched, looked at patters - but ultimately, I'll be much better off if I get my WIP's list under control before starting something new. 

What are you up to on this lovely weekend?