Monthly Archives: April 2011

Just a bit of sock knitting

It’s been a busy and scattered week, and no kidding, one that I’m happy to see the end of. My next few days continue in the realm of busy-ness, but at least in a slightly different vein. (Tomorrow is the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto, which means piles of yarn, wall-to-wall knitters, and the euphoria that comes from combining both of those in the same place; Then Sunday is my 10k race, which though anxiety-making in its own right still includes the crossing of a cheering finish line, which is always unassailably awesome.)

The last couple of weeks have been a series of days of multiple and discrete tasks, and ticking off each day is thus satisfying but also a lead-in to the next day of multiple and discrete tasks, and it’s left me chomping at the bit for the days (soon) when I’ll be able to return my brain to the bigger, more brainstormy, designy, mathy sorts of knitting thoughts I’ve been plotting all month. Instead, I’ve been working away on a couple of simple projects, including this new pair of Jaywalker socks. (Pair #2 of A Second Week’s Worth, since I already have the First Week’s Worth all done. But of course. In Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, Montrose colourway).

Apr27-KnittingandBeer

It’s also been my last week living where I’ve been for the last almost-year. And though I am terribly pleased to ditch my cruddy apartment (my advice on living in basement apartments is: don’t), I would be quite happy continuing all of the rest of it. The job has been exhausting but rewarding, and the town has fun knitters in it. But so it is with contracts, and I am moved back home west of Toronto. My last evening two nights ago featured beer and food with knitters, and most of us brought some knitting along, too. That was pretty great.

I thought that was it, and then, as it happens, the universe decided to gift me with a day-long power outage on my last day in town. No electricity = no work, few errands, but the ability to still knit. I drifted over to the yarn shop (happily observing that traffic actually still functions pretty well without traffic lights – score one for humanity), and discovered I was not the only one there with the same idea. That was pretty great too.

Apr28-YarnShop

The to-do list continues, or at the very least now gets to morph into a slightly different kind of list, and my knitting gets to continue now in heavier swing. Looking forward to it. The sock knitting will keep me company too.

Happy Friday!

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Change in Pace

I’ve somehow managed to let a week go by without checking in here, and that’s not something I love letting happen. It’s been one of those weeks with lots of to-and-fro-ing, lots of running around (both literal and figurative – I’m hitting the half-marathon training in earnest now), plenty of Real Work in my day job and even a bit of knitting time. I’ve finished a couple of small projects and have started others, have been engaging in a few revisions to Make Things Better, and in general am looking forward to the spring and a different change of pace.

In the mean time, let me take a moment to wish you all a Happy Easter weekend if you celebrate, and a pleasant weekend with knitting and treats in any case.

April23-EasterCupcakes

(That’s a vanilla cake cupcake, with frosting and cocount and assorted easter candy decor. Delish.)

Have a good weekend and I’ll catch you on the flip side with plenty of knitting chatter! Happy knitting.

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It’s both, damnit

Last Saturday during my Toronto day, I met up with Austen for lunch and knitting time, and among other things the conversation drifted towards that ubiquitous question of being a process knitter or a product knitter. She came down firmly on the side of product knitting, for herself – she wants the finished thing, to wear and use and immediately integrate into her wardrobe. I agreed that I have product knitter tendencies, though often in a very different way. I always want to be able to wear the finished thing, but mostly I want to just finish the thing; I like having it done and knowing that it is complete, successful, and something to check off my list as done before being able to move onto something else. (Side note: maybe what I really love isn’t the Finished Product feeling, but the Being Able To Start A New Project feeling? Hmm.)

But at the same time, I can’t shrug off the process. I love knitting, and I especially love knitting that isn’t boring. I need to reach for something that’s going to engage my mind in some way, even if it’s a repeating 2-row pattern or a ribbed sock that makes me stop and work heels and toes every so often. I like knitting that asks a little something of me.

I mean, why else would I not only design a pattern with stabby twisty tiny cables for Kim’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer yarn, but then go on to knit the pattern not once, not twice, but three times? That’s definitely process and product working together. I love working the cables, but darn it all I want to show them off, too.

April15-Staked3b

It’s true. I did one as a test sample, one as the real sample, and then this third pair here as a variation. In the pattern instructions I let people know that one way to modify the sock is to omit the swooshy diagonal across the instep, and simply continue the leg cable chart all the way down the front of the foot. It produces a more classic look and is possible a bit more versatile for both men and women looking for some cabled sock action. So I decided to actually go ahead and do that myself, and snagged another skein of Kim’s Merino Sock (you can’t have just one), and cast on. This deep purple is lovingly named ‘Edward Discovers Wood Chippers Make Excellent Juicers.’

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Same delicious stake-through-the-heart cables as in the original pattern, just more of them to love. And they are toasty and comfy to wear. I’m glad I finally got around to sewing up the toes on these babies, because spring’s the perfect time to show off new socks – no longer buried under boots, but still cool enough to need the layer.

As luck and timing would have it, the pattern is now available not just to Indigodragonfly club members (I did this pattern for the October 2010 installment), but in the form of a kit. (The pattern will be available individually through wide release in my Ravelry and Patternfish stores, as of June 15th.)

No matter what you’re knitting on this weekend, I hope you enjoy both product and process! Happy Friday.

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Filed under cables, design, finished object: socks

Catch-all

1. A few days after working up all the finishing on the Dusseldorf Aran, I finally gave it a bath and laid it out for drying/blocking. But it is still a wool/alpaca sweater drying in a basement apartment, and is thusly taking approximately twelve thousand years to do this. (Or, possibly, 2 days instead of just 1.)

2. Now that the club members have had a couple of weeks head start in getting their packages in the mail, it’s safe to blog about the sock design I did for the Tanis Fiber Arts ‘year in colour’ yarn club. And in fact, Tanis lovingly beat me to the punch!

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It’s her Purple Label cashmere sock, in a club colourway called ‘Clover’. At the time that she handed the skein off to me, though, it was simply labelled as ‘March’, as that was its calendar designation. It’s funny how the yarn name works in combination with the colour, though, because as I pondered the colour during the winter months I just kept thinking March March March March, green Marchy goodness… And I knew the idea I wanted to bring to it, it was just a matter of fine-tuning in execution until I got what I wanted. Bright, leafy, viney, knotty socks were just the ticket – and a reminder that spring does return, and winter does in fact, recede. I called them ‘Marching On’.

April14-MarchingOn

3. Not that I’m enabling you or anything, but you can sign up for Tanis’ yarn club at any time in 2011, and you’ll get all the past subscription installments of the year when you sign up. (In 2012, all the patterns revert to designers and you can still have a crack at them even if you weren’t in the club).

4. At the very moment that Tanis was blogging about the socks on Saturday, I was in fact, going 2-for-2 on Saturday knitter encounters in Toronto. As I breezed through the Eaton Centre, Natalie was doing the same thing and we chatted and laughed for a bit. She was even in the presence of cute hand-knits, though believe me it was actually warm enough (finally) that we could genuinely consider ditching them. Hard to believe that time of year is on the horizon!

April9-Natalie

5. Speaking of yarn clubs, if you’re looking for snarky smart-ass yarn clubs, there’s still time to sign up for Kim’s over at Indigodragonfly Yarns. I can personally verify the quality of said snark content is 100%.

Happy Thursday! And happy knitting.

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Filed under accessories, design, finished object: socks

Things are picking up (yuk yuk)

Inevitably, when I teach a knitting class, a few miscellaneous things crop up that fit into that category of Things Everyone Does But They Are Not Shiny Enough To Normally Get Huge Technical Explanations About them All The Time category. Those things that, once you know how to do them, you often take them for granted as a normal step. Sort of like how, once a person explained to you that “stockinette stitch” is actually code for “knit all stitches on the Right Side of the work and purl all stitches on the Wrong Side of the work, when working flat, or if you’re working in the round then that means that you knit all stitches on every round,” you stopped asking what stockinette was and now you just do that without having to need it explained to you.

Picking up stitches along an edge is something that fits into this category. So, I thought I’d take the liberty of making a photo post about that, in the event that there are some of you out there who are figuring this out. Most often you’ll encounter this task in one of two place: picking up stitches for a neckline/collar/buttonband for a sweater, or along the edge of a heel flap of a sock in order to create the gussets (when working from the cuff-down). Here I’m going to show you how I pick up stitches in both such situations, using my Dusseldorf Aran (pink Berocco Ultra Alpaca) for the neckline example, and the heel of my sock design for Tanis Fiber Arts’ Year in Colour yarn club March installment (more posting about that to come, from both Tanis and myself, I am sure!), in her club colour for March.

Much of the process is the same, in either case, but there are a few small differences. Let’s take a look at it step by step.

Apr7-PickingUp1

For a neckline or buttonband or collar, you generally have to pick up stitches along a vertical section of the body (or cardigan fronts, as the case may be), and for the collar or lower part of the neck you also often have stitches held aside on waste yarn as the central section; These last few are just slipped back onto the needle and knitted as required, but it’s the picking up along the vertical edge that is the required step here.

Apr7-PickingUp4

The way I do this is to simply insert the needle through the middle of the stitch (above), and then pick up the yarn with the tip of the needle (below).

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This is, as you can see, taking advantage of the continental-style method of knitting, wherein the yarn is held in your left hand, and stitches are ‘picked’, as opposed to in the English-style or right-handed method which involves ‘throwing’ the stitches. I am generally a right-handed knitter, but I am also generally of the opinion that everyone should know how to do both (even if they only mostly use the one method), because you just never know when the other method is going to come in hand. Picking up stitches and working stranded colour-work are the two times I’m glad I know how to knit continental.

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If you’re picking up stitches along a vertical edge like this, you also generally don’t want to pick up a stitch in every single stitch on that edge. This is because you are working a new stitch into what was formerly the end of your row on the vertical-running piece, and your picked-up edge is going to be going horizontally. Since (most of the time), your row gauge is usually looser than your stitch gauge (check it, I’ll wait), if you were to pick up a new stitch in every row, you would end up with one floppy collar. The way around this is to pick up stitches in the same general ratio as the row-gauge-to-stitch gauge ratio. This generally works out to picking up about 3 sts for every 4 along the edge, and that’s the ratio I use. It was good enough for Elizabeth Zimmerman and gall dangit it’s good enough for me.

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Another option, which I’ll demonstrate below also, is to pick up the stitches using a crochet hook, then slip them onto the needle afterwards. This is a comfortable alternative if you’re not into picking stitches continental-wise.

This next set of photos details the picking-up process on the heel flap of a sock. I like heel flap construction, and it works well for me since I tend to work socks from the cuff-down. So, this involves working a heel flap and then picking up stitches on the edge of the heel flap to make the gussets and re-start the round for the foot. For a heel flap, the main difference in this process is that you are working with a specific sort of edge construction. If you’ve done a traditional heel flap where the first stitch of each row is slipped, as you are working the flap, then you will end up with an edge that has a nice little row of elongated slipped stitches waiting and ready for you.

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So, we have the same steps as above, this time inserting the needle through the base of the slipped stitches on the heel flap – but not the actual slipped stitches themselves. (It took me a couple of years of sock knitting to learn that part).

Mar10-PickingUp4

Then, you pick the yarn from your left hand (below)…

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…and slip the new stitch through.

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And that’s that. Keep doing it for every slipped stitch, and maybe one or two extra at the join of the instep, if you’re worried about gappy holes. As I mentioned above, though, one ¬†alternative to working these picked-up stitches with the yarn held continental, is to use a crochet hook. (You could do this for a neckline/buttonband pickup as well).

Mar10-PickingUp8

Insert the crochet hook through the edge in the same way as above…

Mar10-PickingUp9

…and then pull the new stitch through. Eventually, this will leave you with several stitches collecting on your crochet hook. Just transfer them every so often to your working needle.

Mar10-PickingUp10

In both cases – picking up at a neckline or on a sock edge – this process is likely to leave that first picked up row with relatively loose stitches, like you can see below.

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So, what you do to fix this is to work these stitches through the back loop on the next round – in other words, as ktbl, or twisted knit stitches. This tightens the gap left by those loose stitches on the pick up round. Here we can see the step of inserting the needle through the back of the knit stitch on the needle:

Mar10-PickingUp14

And then wrapping the stitch as normal:

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And then your first row becomes a nice neat little strip of twisted stitches. From then on you can work the stitches as normal knits, when you encounter them, or however the pattern tells you to.

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So there you have it folks, just another piece of my knitting brain from me to you.
I hope you have an excellent Saturday!

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Piecing together

On Saturday I had a blissful escape day into Toronto, to do some big city shopping and knitterly mingling. It was so great I’m planning a repeat this coming weekend, and made even more appealing by the fact that outside temperatures are showing actual warmth. (That whole plan to knit mittens and dare spring to come seems to be working).

Apr7-DusseldorfAran

So, naturally, now that spring is coming, I’m finishing a sweater. I’ve been working on the Dusseldorf Aran (pattern by Fiona Ellis) off and on for about two and a half months now, mixed in with all the other miscellaney of knitting and regular life, and it’s been a lovely colour of Ultra Alpaca and the cables are great. The pieces are finished now, and it’s just the blocking and finishing left to do. I’ve been hemming and hawing a bit over whether or not the pleated sleeve cuffs (in progress, below), will be practical in my wardrobe (I imagine this will not be a sweater conducive to, say, washing dishes in the sink), and I see on Ravelry that other knitters have modified their Dusseldorfs to be simple straight tapering sleeves as is more traditional. But the thing is, the pleats are actually sort of fun. You knit, of course, way more fabric than you think you need on a sleeve cuff, plan in some fold lines (thanks, Fiona, for the awesome instructions), and then the pleating row comes along and you fold it all up with DPNs and do a lot of working 3 sts into one, and then you have a pleated cuff. That’s pretty great, man.

Apr3-DusseldorfSleeves

I’d gotten up to finishing the body and the first sleeve last week, but was dragging my feet on starting the second sleeve, as one does. Still, I took it as an alternate project with me for transiting into the city (sleeves are eminently portable, as Elizabeth Zimmerman always said) last Saturday.

Therefore, if I’d actually been working on the sleeve while I was sitting knitting away at the random Starbucks I chose to start out my Toronto day last Saturday, it would have been much more perfect when I ended up running into Fiona Ellis herself.

Apr2-FionaEllis

True story. She and her husband (who is just lovely and whose name, I am embarrassed to say, I have now forgotten, I keep wanting to say John but I’m sure that’s not going to be right), were out for Saturday coffee and we ended up chatting for a short while, about knitting and technique and design and all sorts of things. That was pretty darned neat, to say the least. I will, needless to say, now expect to have impromptu coffee chats with notorious knitters on every trip into Toronto, so if the city can get on that for this coming Saturday, that’d be great.

(Oh, and Fiona said blocking makes the pleats even more awesome. Can’t wait.)

Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, knitting in public, sweaters

It’s a start

The crazy continues around here. Mix normal end-of-term crazy in with life crazy and imminent moving crazy, and you’ve got yourself one twitchy knitter. I am starting to get the spring cleaning and furniture-rearranging and possessions-sorting impulse (making order out of chaos? go figure), except I can’t actually get on most of that until I’m actually fully moved back home again for the summer, and that’s happening in stages over the next few weeks.

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But I can at least start with the knitting. A few needles have been piling up in corners, post-Finished-Object, and my notions kits have lost all sense of order. The one that sits at home took the corner of a soda spill the other day and sticky stitch markers were the result, and some of the ones in the kit that sit in my handbag had started to migrate out into the world, who knows where. So, heck. That’s at least a manageable bit of ordering I can deal with. I pulled out the bigger things and gave them a clean, then dumped all the stitch markers into some steaming water for a little bath. Pleasantly good as new.

Apr3-TidyKit

It’s a start. Bigger things later on.

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My evil plan is working

All winter I’ve had a mental to-do list of knitting accessories far longer than what I’ve actually managed to get to. Try as I might, the fantasy knitter in my head is still a faster knitter than the knitter-me in reality. But spring has been slow in arriving so far this year, and reports have been predicting a cool start to the season. So I decided yesterday to just go ahead and cast on one more pair of mitts – and if it tempts the weather fates, then so be it.

April1-Mitts1

On the one hand, if it stays cool, then I’ll actually get to wear the mitts before the summer. But if my karmic experiment ends up bringing on the warmth and rendering my new winter accessories on-standby-only until next fall, well, then at least that means it’ll be warm outside. Win-win! I’ve cast on a pair of my own Azalea mitts pattern for me (in Sweet Sheep Tight Twist sock – very sturdy), since I didn’t keep the original sample on these, and if I get to use them they’ll be great for convertible bicycling mitts as the weather transitions.

April1-Needles

I’ve also taken the opportunity to branch out and try a new set of needles at the same time. I’ve gotten into the habit of using Knit Picks circulars for most projects in the last couple of years, and I love the pointy tips and the flexible cables – especially for Magic Loop. But there are so many other needles out there to choose from and I was enticed by the flexible red cables on these ChiaoGoo stainless steel circulars (scroll down). Many of the knitters over at Needles in the Hay use them and dang it, I wanted to see for myself.

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Well, after 24 hours of using the 2.5mm for Magic-Looping on my mitts, I’m already pondering which other sizes to go back to the shop for. Do I need more than one set for socks? Maybe I do. And err, at least a set each for DK and worsted weights, right? I love them. The tips are pointy, the cables are just flexible enough to be comfortable but not so floppy they get in the way, and the little bend at the base of the tip means that the cords don’t swivel. I’m not usually the kind of knitter to go on raves about equipment (I like to cut to the chase, errr, the yarn itself), but these needles get my vote. I’m glad I branched out. Who knows what else is around the corner?

One thing’s for sure. Since I started these mitts yesterday, in between yesterday’s week-ahead weather forecast, and today’s, predicted daytime temperature highs have already gone up a couple of degrees. My evil plan is working.

Happy Friday, and happy weekend to come!

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