Monthly Archives: September 2006

How to Make Speedy Socks?

Marianne was asking me about socks last night, and I thought, hey! You know who also knows a thing or two about socks? Knit-bloggers, that’s who! And so, I am taking the liberty of bringing her question to you fine folks, to ask you all about socks.

What’s your favourite sock yarn?
I, personally, have never met a superwash sock yarn I didn’t like. Lately I’ve used a lot of Patons Kroy and Austermann Step, and I’ll use them again. I recently (finally) started in on KnitPicks and got their Simple Stripes yarn for my Fair Isle socks (from a couple of posts ago), although despite having an active “shopping cart” with KnitPicks for several months, I still have not yet taken the plunge to order some of their Essential. This is largely because I know I won’t just be able to order a couple of balls of it, and I need to be ready. But I have my eye on some of it, I’m thinking….pink and grey argyles ;)

Behold, my sock knitting yarns of past and very close future. Which one to knit next, which one? The decision-making stress…

(From RIGHT to Left: Austermann Step, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (Black Purl), Online Linie 3, Fortissima Color Socka Color, Paton’s Kroy…and Briggs & Little sport weight and Belle Vallee Wools worsted)

Those last two are not “sock yarn” per se, but I have knitted a very warm pair of winter house socks with the Belle Vallee (100% Canadian sheepswool, I love it love it), and the Briggs & Little sportweight is another Canadian wool that I bought several months ago. I had a sockish plan for it in mind at the time, and now I’m thinking it is destined to become an extremely warm pair of knee-highs. (I’ve been itching to try my first pair of knee-highs.)

I know there are other superwash yarns out there, though, in heavier weights, as well as other non-superwash yarns that might make good pairs of socks, and this is what might really help out Marianne. You see, she has approximately eleventy-million pairs of socks to knit before Christmas, and she needs them to go a little faster than the usual fingering-weight-sock-yarn speeed. So…

What’s your favourite non-sock-yarn sock yarn?
This is a question I leave largely to you folks, since most of my sock knitting has involved fingering-weight yarns. I know that there are some DK-weight superwash yarns out there, have any of y’all tried them for socks? A quick google search reveals the following, for example:
Merino Blend DK, Emu Superwash DK, Cherry Tree Hill Superwash DK.

Have you knitted socks as gifts and had success with particular yarns? Would a nice stand-by like Patons Classic Merino or Cascade 220 be just as good, or is the superwash factor more important in the socks that will be gifts? Marianne and her Christmas list eagerly await your suggestions! ;)

Happy Knitting to all on this fine Friday.

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Some Knitting Humour – Firefly style

I’m not the only fannish knitter out there, right? Now, I haven’t knitted a Jayne Hat yet, but the other day I found myself pondering another Firefly/knitting overlap, mostly due to my friend K musing a while back what it would look like if the Battlestar Galactica and Buffy characters ever took up knitting. Heh.

If the ‘Firefly’ Crew Were Knitters
(One fan’s thoughts…)

I imagine that Wash was one of the first ones on the crew to pick it up. He’s got all those long hours sitting at the wheel, after all, so surely he’s on the lookout for something to fill the hours while Zoe and Mal are off on their latest caper. And his warm aran sweater has to have come from somewhere, right?

I would guess that no one’s ever actually seen Inara in the actual act of knitting, but yet she manages to appear quite often wearing extremely fine lace shawls and embroidered kimonos produced on the tiniest gauge. Also, she seems to know quite a bit about technique and has coincidentally managed to pass through the galley at just the right time when someone else needs help with their current WIP.

Kaylee, of course, needed very little convincing once she saw the things Wash and Inara were making, and so it didn’t take long before she started spending time in the handcrafts section of the markets whenever Serenity touches down. Usually a pink skein or two comes back with her and are transformed in her spare hours into warm socks that keep her cosy while working in the engine room. She has her eye on a pattern she found on the Cortex for a ruffled shawl collar jacket, though…

Simon picked up one of Kaylee’s projects once and thought it might be a good way for his sister River to pass the time. He bought her a few skeins of wool and gave her a basic sweater pattern one morning. A couple of days later when he went to ask her about the knitting again, he discovered she’d transformed the yarn not into a sweater but into some wall-hanging-like piece that used every colour, some modular techniques, and changed gauge about eight different times. She told him she found the written pattern too restricting.

Not one to feel left out, and because he thought it would be something to write home about, Jayne let the others teach him some basic techniques. There’s this scarf he’s been working on for a few months, and it’s making slow but steady progress. What usually holds him up is not the actual knitting itself – his gauge is surprisingly perfect – but that he keeps losing one of the needles. Book usually finds it for him, and wishes that Jayne would start using circulars. Most of the travellers he knows tend to figure that out sooner or later.

Zoe never saw much point to knitting, but then after that one time they nearly ran out of fuel and had to bundle up in the cold, she started to come around. She finds time work on her knitting occasionally, but usually only after-hours in her bunk with Wash.

Mal didn’t realize all this knitting was going on under his nose until he came across a stray ball of pink yarn lying around the galley – he was trying to find a wrench he thought he’d tossed aside one day – and questioned the crew about it. Kaylee reclaimed her yarn, and handed him back a ball for himself along with a set of needles. He resisted it for a little while, but then finally gave in. And besides, knee-socks go well with his boots.

;)

~~~~

A bit of progress has been made on my Ivy that’s currently on the needles – I’m half-finished the first sleeve and am hopeful that it will be a full sleeve after another couple of evenings’ work. I’m itching to cast on for some more socks, but am managing to resist so far ;)

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Knitting imitating Life

Thank you all for the suggestions on my last post about what to do with the former sweater. My sister is now mulling the options of charity knitting or an afghan. (Or perhaps a charity afghan?)
(And BTW – if you leave a comment please feel free to include your email address in the comment form ;) That way I can comment right back via email and I like being able to do that.)

Sock Satisfaction!

(Simple Stripes Fair Isle socks, pattern available here at KnitPicks)

I finished these on Friday night, and I must say that I am pleased with them. They are warm and comfortable, and I love the look. The only think I would have done differently is to add yet another 5 rows of back on the toe (I did that already before the toe decreases, but I wouldn’t mind an idge more room) and to make the legs an inch or two taller. Goodness knows I certainly had enough yarn leftover.

I learned 2 things with this pattern:
1) That I can do Fair Isle technique using DPNs, and
2) How to do a short-row sock heel.

The short-row heel is not my favourite, but i’m glad to at least know how to do it should it crop up again in another multicolour sock situation. Overall, I think the pattern is brilliant, so I congratulate Kathleen Taylor on coming up with the idea to use self-striping sock yarn in this fashion.

My only real nitpick is the yarn I have leftover. The pattern calls for 2 balls of black sock yarn and 2 balls of the Simple Stripes for the Size Large (which I made), but I was nowhere close to finishing the first ball of yarn. So now I have one-and-a-bit balls of Simple Stripes yarn leftover. I could easily do a 2nd pair of socks like this, but I don’t think I’d better try that any time soon lest I suddenly snap and decide to stab myself with a double-pointed needle instead. I’ll let it sit in the stash until I decide what to do with it.

Stress and Start-itis
I’ve been stressed out this last week and it’s showing in my knitting. I’m not knitting too tightly or anything, my tension is fine – it’s more that I’m starting to treat yarn purchases like retail therapy and I’m on the verge of a major case of start-itis. As a result my stash has expanded in the last week, but I’ve still managed to hold off on starting more projects.

I did give in briefly – I started in on my 2nd Philosopher’s Wool fair isle sweater with this yarn, but it wasn’t quite sitting right with me. One colour felt off (the Dark Maroon), and I didn’t feel comfortable forcing it. So, I ripped out the 5 inches of sleeve I’d done, put the yarn back in its bag, and set it aside. I’ll replace the Dark Maroon with a different colour, add in another one for balance (The pattern calls for 8 different colours and even with the Dark Maroon I only had 7), and will go back to it when I’m in a more peaceful state of knitting mind. I loved knitting my 1st Philosopher’s sweater, I don’t want to start my 2nd one feeling sour about it.

So, in an effort to restore some order to my knitting, this week I am going to concentrate on one project and one project only:

(A slightly blurry Ivy-in-progress)

My 2nd Ivy (in Highland Silk from Elann) has been on the needles for a couple of months but I keep neglecting her in favour of socks (as evidenced by the # of socks piling up on my FO list.) I’m so close and yet so far – both fronts and the back are done, so the lion’s share of the work is finished, it’s all about the sleeves now, one of which I have started.

With any luck, by this time next week I’ll be within reach of a Finished Object and a soothed knitting soul. ;)


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Knitting angst

Some of the angst is mine (What if I can’t knit everything I want to knit before Christmas? What if Ivy actually sucks and I’ve just hoodwinked a bunch of knitters and the guilt will paralyze me? What if my stash grows to the size of my house and eats me alive?), but some of it is my sister’s. She asked me to solicit the advice of you fine knit-bloggers about her current issue.


You see, she used to have this sweater. SHe knitted it years ago when she was new to knitting and thought Lewiscraft was the be-all and end-all of knitting supplies, and bought up a whole bunch of Bernat chunky 100% acrylic, and made a cabled sweater with it. It was a monster sweater. It took about 1700 yards of chunky wool and in the end left her with about 12 inches of ease around the bust. It was heavy and sweaty and I think she wore it twice. And as you can see, she even ended up mixing dye-lots on the yarn.

So, this week, she decided that perhaps the yarn did not really want to be this sweater and perhaps wanted to be something else, and she started ripping.


And ripping…


And ripping.


And now she has a veritable yarn ball farm of chunky dark green acrylic and, short of monster granny squares, she’s wondering what the heck to do with it all.

Sooo, if YOU had approximately 1700 yards of chunky green acrylic yarn, what would you do with it? ;)

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Life goes on, and so does the knitting

Yep, nothing like going on a trip for a week and a half to put your life into fast forward afterwards! I am being pulled kicking and screaming back into the real world. Thank goodness I still have my knitting to cling to in the evenings.

Quick note re: Ivy yarns and substitutions. I’ve put a link in the sidebar to my previous post where I talked about yarn, and I’ll edit that post as I hear about more successful yarn subs, so do keep me updated as you knit Ivy! And for those of you who are sticking with the Quechua, I’m sure you’re in for a fuzzy treat. When I got mine in the mail I couldn’t stop picking it up, it’s so smooth and soft.

Fetching, isn’t it?

(Fetching, in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, eggplant)

I did manage to only use one ball, but I think this was only because paranoia took over and I skipped a row on the 2nd glove. (I only did 17 rounds instead of 18 in the main ribbing part). I think I would have made it through the pattern fully if I had been more careful about minimizing the leftover tails from cast-on and cast-off (I tend to use long-tail cast-on and end up with wayyyy too much left over on the end). These really are super warm, even having them on for a few minutes for the picture was plenty for me today. I’ll save them for cold winter days in the library. I think I might be getting out some of the worsted weight yarn in my stash to make some of these as gifts as well – I could see lengthening them a bit.

September Socks

(Basic Socks, with Austermann Step, dark blue)

These are just a basic sock pattern, following the Yarn Harlot’s instructions in Knitting Rules – ever since I read that book I have never needed a sock pattern if it’s just a basic pair that I’m knitting, and it’s awesome. (I’m sure that was the point of her writing that chapter ;) ) These are my second pair in the Austermann Step yarn, which is the superwash sock yarn that has aloe vera and jojoba oil in it. So soft. I have a third ball waiting in the stash, although it’s kind of a beige-ish colour and now I’m not sure I like the colour as much, poor thing. (That won’t stop me from knitting it, of course.)

Oh yeah, and if your eyesight is really good you’ll notice that the little yellow post-it has my scribblings reminding me when to catch my fall TV shows. Nice, Glenna, you really want to admit to the world what you’re watching? At least I hadn’t written ‘Bones’ on the list thank goodness. I already have that one memorized. Well, a girl’s gotta have something to knit to, that’s what I always say ;)

Last but not least….


This is the current status of the Simple Stripes fair isle socks. I like them again now that I’ve had a break from them. (I had the 1st one half-knitted when I had to rip it out and start over. It was traumatic.) I might even be able to finish the pair this week – two pairs of socks finished in 1 month! Somebody stop me!

Happy Tuesday to all…

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Ivy yarn

Y’all are an impressive bunch of knitters. Did you know that Elann sold out of Quechua in Saxony Teal within 2 days? I’m still reeling from this. I inquired with the lovely Elann people and they will be getting another shipment of Quechua probably around Christmas time, so if you’re wedded to the teal and can hold out until then, just be patient. If you’re ordering one of the other colours you’re probably still OK.

Yarn substitutions
(Edit – Overall, I recommend looking for sport weight yarn that will drape well. DK-weight will still work, but will also provide slightly firmer fabric and stronger stitch definition (these aren’t necessarily bad things, I just thought I’d mention it ;) )

These are some likely warm weather candidates. I don’t recommend 100% cotton, but if you have something that is blended that should still give you some nice stitch definition and drape.
Knit Picks’ Shine Sport (cotton/modal blend, sport weight)
RYC Cashcotton DK (cotton/viscose/cashmere, DK weight)
Diamond Cool Linen (cotton/viscose/linen blend, sport weight)
RYC Luxury Cotton DK (cotton/viscose/silk blend, light DK weight)
Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (cotton/wool blend, DK weight)
James Brett Kool Kotton DK (cotton/acrylic blend, light DK weight)

Rowan Wool Cotton (cotton/wool blend, DK weight)

As far as Cold weather yarn substitutions, I think there are probably plenty of options out there. If you’re sticking to Elann, they have the Devon sport weight 100% wool, which I haven’t tried but would meet gauge, and they have the Highland Silk which is DK weight but would be snuggly and feel nice. As I say, my friend K is using KnitPicks’ Telemark for hers and having success. But as always, with any yarn I recommend usual practices of swatching first, and getting an extra ball just in case. (Edit: Here’s a list for people who need lists:)
Elann’s Devon (100% wool, sport weight)
KnitPicks’ Telemark (100% wool, sport weight)
KnitPicks’ Elegance (wool/silk/alpaca blend, DK weight)
Lavold Silky Wool (wool/silk blend, DK weight)
Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport (100% wool, sport weight)
Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb Sport (100% wool, sport weight)
Elann’s Highland Silk (wool/silk blend, DK weight)
Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (wool/cashmere blend, light DK weight)

{EDIT #2:}Here are some yarns that have been used successfully over at the Ivy Knitalong (Looks like Ivy is a pretty versatile gal!):
Elann Highland Silk
Harrisville Shetland
Nashua Worsted
Knitpicks Andean Treasure
Knitpicks Telemark
Patons Diploma Gold
Bergere de France Ideal
Inca Silk from Ram Wools
Elann Quechua

The knitting goes on
I have my 2nd Ivy staring at me from my knitting bag right now, but then I’ve also been working on my first pair of Fetching, which really are the best instant gratification. I’m already done the first one and am onto the 2nd one and cast on on Wednesday night.

And then I have the basic pair of socks I was knitting all the while on my trip, which is 3/4 done, and of course the Simple Stripes fair isle socks that I started back in August.

So much to knit, so little time, as always ;)

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Ivy, oh Ivy! I think I have whiplash…

…from the response I’ve had to Ivy since its release… *checks calendar* 2 days ago. I only wish I hadn’t been away from home at the time! (Note to self: In the event of any possible future pattern designs, try not to be gallivanting around London at the time of their release. Or if gallivanting around London, try to have internet access more frequent than occasional internet café visits.)


First up, let me give the mad props to the fine people at Knitty, in particular their technical editor Mandy who, in my opinion, improved upon Ivy’s pattern instructions and made them even clearer. And, of course, I thank them for accepting my wee pattern and taking a chance on the new kid in town, so thanks Knitty!

What a difference 2 days make
Soooo, yes. Ivy, she is out in the world now and what can I say but I am thrilled, humbled, overwhelmed, etc at the response I received and so quickly. I think I’m going to just save up all these congrats for when I get the blues and they will give me an instant lift.

The astute among you may have noted that Elann has already changed their Quechua yarn page to show photos and a Knitty pattern link for Ivy. Ahahahah. I just about fainted when I saw they’d changed their ad on Knitty to reflect the exact Ivy yarn and everything. I SO did not anticipate that one! But sure enough, within less than 48 hours (nay, less than 24 hours, even) I had an email waiting in my inbox from the fine Elann people asking for permission to include a pattern link on their site, and since Elann already owns my soul, how could I possibly say no? ;)

Also in the 48 hours post Knitty release, my blog site statistics fairly exploded – I think I had more visitors in 1 day than in the entire first 4 months of my blog! Whoa! Let me once again say hello and I hope I will entertain you for at least a millisecond with my knitblogging. Maybe even two milliseconds. And what really and truly flatters me is that there is already an Ivy Knitalong up and running! That one deserves credit to the Crazy Fiber Lady, she has set up a blogspot account for it and everything. Kudos.

More about ye olde Ivy pattern…From what I’ve managed to absorb from some very kind emails, comments, and general buzz, there have been some thoughts and inquiries along the lines of:

“Thanks so much for including the plus-sizes!
You are so very welcome. I hope the pattern works well for all sizes concerned. In fact, let me thank YOU for your kind words. Seriously, I never intended to stop just at Size L or XL, I figured that was a given by now in this post-Big-Girl-Knits world that we’re living in. In fact, if I had had the time to write up more sizing I would have happily gone up to 4X or 5X. Wait, let me just pencil that in on my to-do list for a rainy day after the rubble has cleared.

“About that yarn you used…”
I chose Quechua because it comes in pretty colours (there are more, I think, than what is currently up at Elann, but the ones that are there now are so covetable…The red and the lavender are calling to me…), it is soft, it has a modest sheen to it, and oh yeah, it’s WARM. It’s a tough endeavour, trying to remain warm in Canadian winters without adding a bazillion layers, but this sweater is at least 1 attempt on my part to do it in moderately attractive style. And it’s a yarn that’s priced to own. And Elann is based out of Canada. And did I mention also that Elann yarns practically own my soul? I mean, all they have to do is re-stock any of their Peruvian Collection colour selections and I’m a happy camper all week long.

If an alpaca-blend yarn isn’t your cup of tea, whether because you prefer wool or you’d like to stick to non-woolen-related fibres altogether, then for yarn substitutions your first task is to find something that works up to Ivy’s stockinette gauge of 6 sts per inch. So, sport weight or something on the lighter side of DK is what you’re looking for. Your best bet if you’re unsure is probably just to do a swatch of the ribbing pattern in the yarn you’re thinking of and see how it holds up before and after washing, and if it looks good then go for it! My friend K is currently making one in KnitPicks’ Telemark, and from all reports it is going well so far.

“The pattern calls for straight needles. What if I want to use circulars?
I knitted each piece of the sample in the photo flat using circular needles, I just worked them in the back-and-forth style in the manner used to work flat pieces on a pair of straits. Just don’t join the stitches for in-the-round knitting and keep turning at the end of each row and you’re fine.

I like using circs because they’re easier on my hands. I don’t think this pattern is suitable for modification for in the-round-knitting, though (But if you figure out a way, feel free to let me know and I’m happy to be proven wrong) – all cardigan-style aspects aside, the pattern asks you to leave a gap in each of the side seams to form a hole for the sashes, and that would be tougher to manage if you were knitting the whole thing in one piece.


So, to sum up, allow me to say THANK YOU to everyone who has responded so enthusiastically to Ivy, and I hope she will be a good knit for you. I’d be thrilled to see pics when anyone gets to the FO stage. Or before that. Heck, I like photos of anything that’s knitting-related, let’s face it. Even stash photos are good. And I like knitblogging, so I’m looking forward to getting to know more of you who have commented. Knitters are, after all, the best folks ever. ;)

Happy knitting until next time! I now have the job of de-jet-lagging and propping myself up (with some knitting no doubt) and trying to stay awake until it is at the very least dark outside. My best to all…

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