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Anything goes season

I have made peace with the fact that the month of August, for me at least, is going to involve as much knitting time as I can possibly fit into it – and also still a bit of crochet, as will be the case for the next little while as the granny squares take shape. I’ve got some deadline design knitting to do, which is always a fun time crunch, along with the other projects I’ve been keeping in the rotation this summer.

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Fall knitting is already a realistic prospect by this month too, even though it’s still plenty warm and summery outside that wearing sweaters seems very far away. I decided to get a good start on things in that area while on vacation at the end of July, and am chugging away at a new fall cardigan design. (Unsurprisingly for me, it has some cables.) This is some gorgeous Bayfield Aran from Georgian Bay Fibre Co., and I’m loving the 100% BFL wool. I knit with a lot of different wool yarns over the course of my knitting year, and I do enjoy the machine-washable superwash yarns but it’s also really nice to have true wool on the needles for a while. It feels and smells like real wool and is going to be super warm and cozy when it’s done.

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While I can’t say I’m in a rush to experience the cooler temperatures that sweater-weather requires, the knitting part is definitely just fine. Wool is awesome, and so are sweaters. All projects are invited to the WIP pile this month, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll rotate them around and everyone will get their action time!

Happy knitting this Tuesday, knitter friends!

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Pattern: Cardigan design in progress, for Fall 2015 release

Yarn: Bayfield Aran in ‘wrought iron tower hilil’ colourway, from Georgian Bay Fibre Co. (Note their online shop will be closed for a break August 17th-Sept 15th).

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Just a quick bed-sized afghan, I swear

Earlier this summer I cast on for the Liberty blanket, which is a big gorgeous project that I’ve wanted to make for years. You would think that would really be enough in the Large Projects With Indefinite Timelines category, and I really did think it would be too. But then I went on vacation with my sister at the end of July, and for a travel project she brought with her a few skeins of sock yarn that she has started crocheting into granny squares. She doesn’t knit as much as she used to so she’s rounded up her sock yarn and has decided it’s going to be an afghan instead.

So that seemed sort of neat and I was all willing to be impervious to the charms of cute and tidy little granny squares in pretty little bits of sock yarn. But then she kept pointing out that I have a whole bunch of sock yarn remnants in my stash that aren’t getting used and I could just go ahead and start making them into squares any time I wanted. And I have never crocheted a single complete project in my life (though I do know how to wield a crochet hook for knitting support purposes like steek reinforcement, single chain edgings, and so forth), but I do know how to make a basic granny square.

And that dear blog friends, is the story of how last week while I was on the couch with a cold, I started turning this:

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…into these:

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So far this is pretty fun. I’ve done more than 30 so far and it hasn’t gotten boring yet (though I know from anecdotal evidence that it will reach that point eventually). If anything, the sheer choice of sock yarn remnants is making it a pretty impervious project to boredom, because there are so many colour combinations to choose from. As long as I don’t do more than 2 or 3 in a row with the same colour combination, it’s all good.

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My only rules were to eliminate any true yellows (which was only a few bits), anything not plied (for stability), and anything in a true ‘light fingering weight’ category as opposed to fingering weight (for consistency of size). There is quite a lot of variation in colour still, but thankfully most of these remnants play well together. Altogether I’ve got about 1700g of yarn here, which should be enough for at least 200 squares if not more. There is actually the possibility that I will run out of remnants before I reach the number of squares I’d like to get (aiming for at least 256), but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. They’ll all need to be joined up with a final background colour round along the outside of each, as well, which I think will probably be something in the cream/off-white area.

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My sock yarn remnants bin holds everything that is less than about 3/4 of a skein (the leftovers from not just socks but fingerless mitts, sweaters, and shawls), so there are some more plentiful bits in there alongside small remnants of 10g or less. It is pretty great to give these little small bits of yarn one last hurrah – congratulations guys! You made it! You’re going to get one last final project after so much waiting around! Great work everyone! I like the small multicoloured remnants a lot.

This will definitely be a big project with a long timeline on it, but it’ll be worth it in the end. A nice light colourful afghan is always a good idea, right? Right.

Happy weekend, blog friends! I hope you’ve got a great project to spend time with.

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Midsummer sock yarn adventures

Greetings dear blog friends! I have spent the last two weeks doing a combination of travelling and sitting on the couch nursing a cold (picked up while doing the travelling). The travelling was good. My sister and I followed a few days of visiting family in Edmonton (and also eating a lot of good food at a lot of yummy restaurants) with a few days in Vancouver for leisure time afterwards, and unsurprisingly I would have happily spent more time in Vancouver doing leisurely things. I mean, it looks like this:

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I mean, I know there’s everyday cruddy boring parts of Vancouver too, and it isn’t (probably) a coastal rainforest paradise every single day of the year, but we came back to an Ontario summer heat wave and let’s face it given the choice I think I know which environment I’d call the more enjoyable one. Anyway, it was a neat trip and I rounded out a bit of knitting by finishing one pair of socks…

DSC_0297…and started another pair.

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Now suddenly it is August and I’m not entirely sure how we got to August, and yet here we are again. We still have a month of summer left and yet by the time we get here, all of a sudden it seems viable to start talking about fall things like sweater knitting and back-to-school supplies, and I swear I saw some Halloween candy on sale the other day.

Well, it is still summer as far as I am concerned, and just to prove it I am working away on as many projects as possible this week. I do have some fall design work to get done (gulp), but I also want to make some personal progress on some projects of my own since the only thing I ended up actually completing during the month of July was that pair of ribbed socks up there. It’s a nice pair of socks for sure, but I’d like to finish more things.

Since the first step towards finishing something is starting something (work with me here), I’m not just working away on the blanket and accessories I started last month, but last week in my congested haze I finally bagged up the small mountain of sock yarn leftovers I’ve been collecting for nearly a decade, and started in on something with them, too.

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More on that one next time. ;)

Have a great Tuesday, knitter friends!

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Pattern: Nice Ribbed Sock (free on Ravelry)
Yarn: Socks That Rock Mediumweight, ‘bleck’ colourway

Pattern: Jaywalker, by Grumperina (free Ravelry download)
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, in ‘hermosa’

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Not quite done yet

So, about a week ago I finished the Charlotte St. Cowl I was working on, a larger version of my original pattern. Or at least I thought I was finished.

It looks lovely and after blocking it’s turned out light and lofty and just perfect for the BFL wool yarn (100% wool is airier and holds up a little more structure than superwash wool does). It was totally done.

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But when I slipped it on it just wasn’t quite as tall and snuggly as I’d wanted it to be, and since I’ve got more than half a ball of yarn left there’s really no reason not to keep knitting it more. I think I stopped knitting when I started to get tired of it, rather than when it needed to be stopped, and since I’ve still got more yarn I decided to pull out the last bit of ribbing, and pick up the pattern where I left off.

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Using 100% wool means you can be a little more cavalier about picking up live stitches in a row of lace knitting (wool sticks to itself and doesn’t want to drop down as quickly as superwash wool or some other fibres might), but all the same I decided not to be too fussy about picking them all up in the right direction and just got them all on the needles. Some of the stitches got picked up from the front and others from the back (this affects your stitch orientation), so then when I worked the first round after picking up, I also had to go and re-orient all the stitches the right way around on the needle. Fussy, but worth it! It will all sit nicely in the end.

This weekend I will be heading out on some travels west – visiting family in Edmonton and then a few days of leisure in Vancouver – so this will be coming along with me for travel knitting. I’ll also bring the current pair of socks on the needles, and a new sweater project to start on. Hopefully that’ll be enough for a week!

Have a great weekend, blog friends!

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Pattern: Charlotte St. Cowl (‘medium’ modification made taller)
Yarn: Georgian Bay Fibre Co. bayfield fingering weight, ‘tower hill green glass’ colourway

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We are go for blanket

For the last month or so I’ve been working away on smaller accessory projects – my larger Charlotte St. cowl is even finished now and happily drying on the blocking board as we speak, my Rocaille socks are patiently getting a few rounds at a time done on the second sock – and they’ve been good projects but ultimately I realized that it’s weird for me not to have something bigger to work on at the same time as the small things. I like having something that I can let occupy a big chunk of my brain and maybe even get a little obsessive over, and having only the smaller accessories on the needles hasn’t been doing that for me.

I think this is normally the part in my process of spring-summer where I would start a Pi Shawl or other lace shawl project, but instead this time around I have been thinking a lot about blankets. It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I last knitted a blanket – in other words, long enough that I’ve just about forgotten how long it really takes – so this weekend I just wound up a bunch of yarn and started up on one.

DSC_0287Not just any blanket, mind you. This might not look like much so far, but this is the humble beginning of a Liberty Blanket, from the second Mason Dixon Knitting book by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne. I’ve admired this pattern pretty much since the minute the book came out, and when I realized I had enough yarn already stashed in two contrasting colours to start it right now, that was pretty much the only other barrier removed. DSC_0288

This is a big bold stranded colour-work pattern inspired by the Liberty of London prints (hence the name), so it’s a big enough chart that I don’t anticipate ever being able to commit it to memory. That plus the eventual size means this is definitely going to be a couch project and not a portable one. So, I’m trying to get in several rounds every day to get the first pattern repeat done as quickly as I can (there are five pattern repeats overall, of 70 rounds each).

I am hoping, possibly foolishly, that even if this takes months to get done in the end that I’ll still manage to finish it in time for this coming winter season and it’ll be a super reading blanket for the couch. So as much as I can get done in the first month will be golden. We’ll see how that goes, since all too soon there will be fall sweaters to contend with!

What project are you currently obsessed with, knitter friends? I hope you get to cast on for something “fun” soon!

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Pattern: Liberty blanket, in Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #9325 westpoint blue heather and #4006 galaxy heather

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So you’ve discovered sock knitting

Since I’ve been chattering a bit about socks lately, I’ve had a few folks ask me a bit more about the whole sock knitting thing. If you are relatively new to this whole experience (perhaps you came to knitting sometime after the great Sock Knitting Renaissance of the late ‘aughts) then let me pull up a chair and drop you a few suggestions. Sock knitting is not for everyone (or rather, it is not everyone’s favourite thing ever), but it’s nice to at least try something once to see for sure if it’s not for you, and if you’re in the try-something-at-least-once phase, here are a few little bits of knowledge, from me to you.

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Start simple.

So, since we did have that great Sock Knitting Renaissance of the late ‘aughts, when it seemed like everybody was knitting socks all the time and if you weren’t knitting socks you must be some kind of creature that lived under a rock, a whole whack of sock patterns have been produced. There are so many kinds of socks out there, guys. Choice feels like your enemy at first. So, start with the simplest sock pattern that appeals to you.

One of the first ones I knitted was the Basic Sock Recipe in Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It’s a stockinette sock work from the cuff down and also includes a good description of how socks are constructed, so that even if you don’t have a pattern you can still knit socks. It’s still the first thing I recommend to new sock knitters and the whole book is awesome.

I also have my own Nice Ribbed Sock pattern, which is a top-down sock knitted in 3×1 ribbing, and is free. However, if you’re uncertain about knitting socks on sock weight (fingering weight) yarn, which is fine and makes small (slower) stitches, try a pattern that uses DK weight or worsted weight, to give you more speed and satisfaction off the top. Some of the most popular ones on Ravelry in this category are the Blueberry Waffle socks (which are free), the Stepping Stones socks (which are in the Knitter’s Book of Socks), and these Toe-Up Heel Flap Socks (also free).

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Then ask your brain what it wants to do next.

You might finish your first pair of socks and immediately love it and march yourself to the yarn store and buy twelve skeins of sock yarn and spend the next month doing nothing but knitting socks. If so, you would be in excellent company and many of us would happily empathize. On the other hand, you might finish your first pair and vow never to knit socks again, and go right back to shawls/cowls/sweaters/etc, and that is also totally valid and also there will be knitters right there to empathize with you.

It’s also quite likely that you’ll fall into the large and vague middle category, where you sort of think this could be neat, but [insert here] about the process didn’t really do it for you. Chances are, there is a personalized solution out there for you for whatever that thing is.

Was it the boring-ness of the pattern? Why not try something with more interesting stitches on it.

Did you try a cuff-down sock pattern and wished you could do it from the toe up instead? (which is handy if you want to be exact about how much yarn you use per sock) There are just so many toe-up sock patterns to choose from.

A lot of sock patterns are written for double-pointed needles. Maybe you tried that and it wasn’t your thing. Magic Loop is a nice alternative, and again, there are lots of tutorials: Knittinghelp.com, KnitPicks, my own wee photo tutorial, or heck, a quick YouTube search are all possibilities. Similar to Magic Loop is the two-circular needles method.Finally, thanks to the innovation of knitting world, you can also get circular needles that are small enough to use for a sock circumference, and 9-inch circular needles are more popular now for socks.

All of these methods are applicable for knitting in the round for any small circumference. You might find Magic Loop useful for sleeves, for example, as an alternative to double-pointed needles.

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Figure out where sock knitting fits into your life.

I knit about half a dozen pairs of socks over the course of a year, mostly by choosing simple patterns that are easy to pick up and put down at a moment’s notice, and by keeping a sock project in my handbag for portable knitting. I’ve heard from other knitters who say they do this kind of knitting at certain times of day or while waiting for regular appointments or kids’ activities to finish up. Once you get the hang of it, sock knitting can easily fill little bits of time like this and eventually, you end up with a full sock drawer and then your family starts getting socks as gifts because you can’t stop. (Or that could just be me. Hm.)

Personally, I alternate between double-pointed needles and Magic Loop, depending on what I’m knitting, and prefer working cuff down. There are so many options! Try a few techniques and decide for yourself what you like the most.

This has been your Wednesday ode to sock knitting. If you’re new to this world, welcome! It has much to distract you with. ;). Happy knitting!

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Some walking-around cables

Now that it’s July and the unofficial start of summer, I’m reminding myself of my summer knitting goals that I was making for myself back in May when summer seemed forever away and like it will stretch out with lots of time far into the future. In reality, 2 months from now September will arrive and Canadians will be sadly mourning how short summer truly is/was, so basically let’s make this summer count with some fun knitting and patio drinks and some cheezy novels, is what I’m really telling myself.

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I decided I would get at least one pair of non-plain socks on the needles this summer, to break up my usual parade of ribbed socks and Jaywalkers, and last weekend I followed through and cast on for Rocaille by Norah Gaughan. I’ve had the Knitter’s Book of Socks on my shelf for a little while and happily stared at the pages many times (as one does with one’s knitting library), and I’m glad to be getting one of its patterns on the needles. (I have also been staring at Elm, by Cookie A, so maybe those will be August’s socks).

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These socks had my number because of the cables – I also really like the way they travel around from the back of the leg towards the front, and absorb the ribbing from the cuff. I’m making a couple of modifications, namely working a heel flap and turned heel instead of the indicated afterthought heel (purely for preference – I like the way the heel flap fits my high arches). The pattern also indicates several decrease rounds at the back of the leg, of which I am working fewer than indicated to give me a larger sock circumference. It’s written for only one size (to fit foot/ankle of 8.25″ circumference), so that’s my adjustment to make it a bit roomier for my 9″ foot/ankle circumference.

This pattern definitely requires more attention than plain socks, but i’m hoping that will help stave off the ‘second sock syndrome’ by the time I get to the 2nd one. And they will be very snazzy to wear!

I hope you have some great summer knitting plans as well! Whether socks or otherwise.

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Pattern: Rocaille, by Norah Gaughan, in The Knitter’s Book of Socks
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, ‘blue lagoon’ colourway, stashed oh so long ago and finally being knitted

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