Let’s Talk About Socks, Baby!

I have most of a sock!

IMG_3881I turned the heel and did the gussety bits yesterday and it was a lot easier than I’d expected. I really only screwed up a couple of times and nothing was so bad it couldn’t be fixed or tolerated. The main thing I did was to pick up stitches along the wrong edge of the heel flap and then couldn’t figure out why I was basically knitting on the inside of the sock instead of the outside, but I figured it out pretty quickly. If you think of the cuff and leg of a sock as a tube because, well, it is, and then imagine a squared off tab extending from the back bottom edge, that’s where I was. Holding the sock cuff edge down with the heel tab closest to me, I should have picked up stitches along the left edge, knitted (around) across the front of the ankle, then picked up stitches along the right edge of the tab, then knitted around the back of the heel. If you think about the heel flap as being at 6 o’clock then I should have started at about 7 and knit clockwise around. Instead, I started at about 5 and tried to go the other way. Didn’t work! But was very easy to pull out and get going the right way instead. The problem? I didn’t read the pattern thoroughly enough and missed the last row on the heel flap. Trust the pattern, kids! Unless it’s wrong and then listen to your gut. But otherwise, sometimes you just have to have trust in the pattern and re-read it until it gels.

How do you tell the difference? The short answer is I don’t know. But with the advent of ravelry, at least you can browse through other people’s projects and, if no one mentions crazy weird issues, chances are you’re misreading something.

Here’s the right side of the heel and gusset:

IMG_3882 IMG_3883And the left side:

IMG_3884 FullSizeRender 48The right side worked pretty well, but I learned a couple of things on the left side. I didn’t pick up the stitches cleanly so there’s a couple stray plies of yarn out of place for some of them. Now that I know to be careful of that, I can do it better next time around. The other thing I’m not completely happy with is the first couple of stitches I picked up on this side. They are sort of at the top of the upside down V formed by the heel flap. They’re right at the top of the last pic. They made large holes that I couldn’t find a way to prevent. I knitted them through the back loops on the first round, but they still gap a good bit. I will have to do a little research on how to do that better so there’s not so much of a hole.

And here’s the bottom of the heel:

IMG_3888So far, I’ve followed the pattern without making any modifications. From here, the pattern calls for knitting until the foot is 1″ shorter than the desired length. At this point I’m going to do two or three more decrease rounds so the foot circumference fits a little better. Otherwise, I don’t foresee changing anything. I’m an old pro at Kitchener stitch at this point, so it should be smooth sailing now!

Oh, yeah…I got really irritated at the dpns again. Before when that happened I would just put the sock down and knit on my Drachenfels for a bit. However, I’ve now used up all the grey yarn I have and can’t do any more until I get my new order in. So, I just put it on a long circular instead and sort of half learned, half intuited how to do magic loop. It’s really pretty easy and works well. The only thing I’m not a fan of is learning how to adjust the tension when switching off from one needle to the next. You can see on the garter panel here where I started using magic loop instead of dpns:

IMG_3886Haven’t figured out a fix for that, yet. I’ve tried keeping the first stitch of the new section tight, the last stitch of the old section, the second stitch of the new section…nothing so far. Any suggestions? Otherwise I might have to cast on a new project while I’m waiting for my new dpns. Or, (gasp), do some finishing on my UFFOs!

Welcome, Autumn

It is breezy and cool here today and I’m enjoying every minute. I spent some time outside with my daughter earlier while she was learning to ride her “new” scooter. I took the opportunity to get some real pics of my Drachenfels in its current state: 

  
  
In case anyone is wondering, I ordered another skein of the grey so I will finish it as planned. While I was at it, I picked up a couple of sets of dpns to replace the splitty ones. I will have socks and a complete, giant Drachenfels to usher in the cooler weather!

Ah Sh*t, I Need More Yarn

I didn’t think I’d say that any time soon, but I came to a realization this evening: I need more yarn to finish my Drachenfels. At least, I need more to finish it the way I had planned to. I was knitting away happily at the solid grey section that is supposed to come right before the end when I realized that the longer rows are really chewing up the yarn a lot faster than I thought they would. I’m almost halfway into my third and final skein of the grey, and I don’t think the second half is going to get me through to the end.

I’m adapting a three color design to use four colors. The way I eventually envisioned this was to have two background colors and two contrast colors. I started at one tip with charcoal as my first background color and spruce as my first contrast color. As the shawl is knitted, you end up with a four stitch net increase for every six rows knitted so it grows into a triangle. Eventually you bind off along what has turned into a long edge. So, I eventually added the grey and phased out the charcoal, and the grey became my second background color. Then I replaced the spruce with light blue, my second contrast color. I did the transitions as garter ridge stripes. After the stripes, I had intended to knit 21 ridges of grey then do the 15 ridges of edging, approximately half grey and half blue. The bind off would be blue.

This whole plan developed after I had started knitting. I didn’t think yardage would be an issue. If I had, I might have switched the charcoal and the grey since I have four skeins of charcoal and only three of grey. I don’t have a great way to predict exactly how much yarn I’ll need, but it looks like each garter ridge is around 2-3gm. The original plan calls for 11 more ridges solid then 8 more in the edging for 19 total. I would need at least 40 gm and maybe close to 60. I’m down to 28 gm.

So, options. I could end the solid section early and just start on the edging sooner. I could bring the charcoal back in. I could add a fifth color from my stash. I could scout around and try to get another skein of the grey. I could ignore the issue and just keep knitting, knowing that I will lose this round of yarn chicken.

Let me back up a bit and consider the symbolism of this shawl. I’m going through a rough spot, as I’ve mentioned, and found I was having a hard time coping with everything life was throwing at me. I needed more support and wasn’t sure how to get it. I decided that, while it is important to ask for and receive support from people close to me, I need to be my own primary source of love and positivity. My first thought of how to do this was to knit something awesome for myself as a gift. So, this shawl was born of my conscious decision to pour positive energy into myself. This shawl represents my self-love, my self-care and my adamant refusal to accept less (from myself, at any rate) than I deserve. This is knitted defiance. Maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but it really is a pretty big deal to me.

I think I just talked myself into dropping $14 to see this thing through.

IMG_3849

The First Rule of Sock Club

Well, clearly I’m going to talk about Sock Club, so don’t let the title fool you! We had our first virtual meet up yesterday afternoon/evening (we spanned several time zones). It was awesome to meet some fellow bloggers and fiber aficionados. I had my pattern and yarn all picked out and was all set to start swatching so I dug out my US1 dpns, two sets of 4, new in their packages. I tend to like thinner socks so I figured I would go with typical fingering weight sock yarn and little needles in able to achieve that. Well, the dpns looked a little small so I checked them on my fancy schmancy gauge doohicky. Yep, US0s, not US1s.

Rats. I thought about swatching anyway but I sort of hate to start off with the wrong equipment. I suppose I could have gone up to US2s since I’m typically a bit of a snug knitter, but it just didn’t seem like it was coming together. So, I started to rethink. I wasn’t in love with the pattern I had chosen, really. It just seemed like the clearest first-time sock tutorial I could come up with. Based on my gut and some guidance in the comments of my last post, I picked out another pattern. This one calls for worsted or aran weight yarn and is knit on US3s and 5s. I took a virtual dive into the stash, came up with some lemon yellow Lamb’s Pride Superwash, and started swatching. image_mediumWell, my first swatch didn’t work out on 5s, so I went down to 3s. That was maybe a little tight if anything so I settled on 4s. I cast on for the first cuff and started on the ribbing. As usual, I used Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on. Over the course of the evening yesterday, I got through the ribbing and a couple of inches into the leg. IMG_3869The garter stitch panel will be in the center ultimately–it’s just off center here because of how it is on the dpns. Warning: obligatory foot selfie is coming!

IMG_3868I’m pretty pleased with it so far. I’m doing a combination of sizes –L for leg circumference but it will be shorter in the foot to fit me. It’s a little strange because knitting worsted yarn on size 4s makes for a very dense fabric, and it’s also making the wool seem a little coarse. They’re probably not socks I will be thrilled to wear all the time. But really, I don’t think that’s the important thing here. The important thing is that I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, challenging myself, and learning something new. My first pair doesn’t have to be perfect (neither does my 100th pair, for that matter). My goals are really just to get a pair of socks that fit me reasonably well, that resemble each other to a high degree, and are reasonably similar to the pattern I’m using to make them. That’s more than enough to take on, especially for my first real try!

After working on and off on my socks last night, I picked up my Drachenfels to put in some work there. Whew, what a difference!! To explain why, I suppose I need to back up a little. I have accumulated a lot of knitting supplies over the years. I have lots of straight needles and dpns that I got from my mom and from various other knitters who had extra. I’ve bought needles here and there as needed when I didn’t have the right size for a project I wanted to do. I’ve picked up needles on sale when I’ve found them. I have a pretty large assortment of supplies, but they’re not all what I would have chosen if I was building it from the ground up, knowing what I know now. What this means for my sock project is that the only size 4 dpns I happen to have are these random bamboo (?) ones from a “Joy of Sox” knitting kit someone gifted me. They have weird splitty tips, not unlike the Surina ones I blogged about here. They are cheap quality and not very easy to work with. After wrestling with them and rather coarse worsted yarn, I picked up my Drachenfels on my gorgeous Addi sock rockets. The knitting seemed completely frictionless. WordPress is telling me “frictionless” isn’t a word, but that’s the only way I can describe it. The stitches seemed to fly from one needle to the next. Sooooo dreamy!!

What this means, I think, is that I need to slowly let go of some of my borderline hoarder tendencies and gradually replace my less awesome needles with new ones as the opportunities arise. I’m not going to buy a complete set all at once or anything like that–plenty of what I have is still very useful–I’m just going to pay attention when I see sales turn up for needles that are nicer than the weakest links of my collection. I’m going to let my “needle snob” tendencies loose a little more and stop feeling obligated to use tools that I do not like, simply because I have them and they were cheap or free. Sometimes the non-monetary price of a bargain just isn’t worth it.

Putting My Money Where My Foot Is

I’ve been knitting off and on for over 25 years. I’ve made all manner of things–headwear, neckwear, hand- and armwear, tea cozies, dishcloths, hot pads, blankets, baby sweaters, baby booties, and I don’t even know what else. What doesn’t show up on that list is: footwear. At least, not adult-sized footwear. I should note the one small exception to that. One of my first actual projects (maybe my actual first project) was a pair of bed slippers. I actually finished both of them. They were not exactly the same size as each other and there were some mysterious holes in one of them, but I finished them, seams and pompoms and all. I believe I used some stylin’ pink acrylic. I can’t find a picture or pattern that is exactly the same, but they were something along the lines of this. I got the original pattern from a random “learn to knit” booklet from goodness only knows where. They were really something. I think I even wore them once.

Okay, I’m stalling. The salient point is that socks have been my Achilles’ heel (get it?) and I have been too intimidated to try them for a long time. I learned a lot about various fiber arts from my ex’s mother several years ago. She is a brilliant artist, quilter, rug hooker, spinner, weaver and knitter. She didn’t knit as much during the time I knew her due to arthritis but she was always churning out a pair of socks. She ooohed and aaahed all my projects and I drooled over her socks. I’ve been collecting sock yarn, needles and patterns for years. I would love to have awesome, well-fitting colorful socks to wear, but I have never even cast on for a pair. Every time I start to think about it seriously, I get a vision of those pink slippers and I get discouraged.

Today? All that changes! I have yarn. I have needles. I have books, patterns, references, advice, pointers and tips. And I have a virtual knitting group that’s going to nudge me over the edge and into the abyss of sock knitting! Stay tuned, folks, because I will be sure to share my eventual successes and my missteps (get it??) along the way. I have about an hour and a half to change my mind, but for now I’ve tentatively selected this yarn and this pattern for my first foray into footwear.

IMG_3354And if the universe hadn’t already pointed me firmly in this direction, I just heard my daughter’s voice over the baby monitor (she’s upstairs “napping”) saying, “socks! I said socks! Socks!*” so it’s final. I have to knit some socks.

*She is probably telling the story of her first word, which did just happen to be “socks”. We’ve been talking with her about that lately.

Drachenfels and the Art of Thrifting Yarn

Making good progress on my Drachenfels. I chose to make this a four color design instead of three, so mine is shaping up a little different (which I love). The original pattern starts with two colors and about halfway through, the first color is phased out and the third color is added. So, in the sample knitted by Melanie Berg, the shawl is chocolate and light pink on one and and red and light pink on the other. For mine, I chose to start with colors A and B and transition to C and D, so the two ends of my shawl will look very different from each other. I was not sure initially that that was the best choice, but I love it. I really do. I’ve just phased out the second original color so am working only with dark grey and light blue. So so cool. These pics help show the last color transition:

IMG_3847 IMG_3848 IMG_3846

And this helps show what the different parts of the shawl will look like together:

IMG_3849I’ve mapped out how much bigger I’ll make it. The pattern calls for continued increasing throughout the garter ridge stripes, then a solid color section, then the edging and I cord bind off. I’ve already knitted to the total number of stitches the pattern calls for but I’m going to keep going for a ways. I’m not a petite person and I want to really be able to wrap up in this. So, I’m going to do a 2 color stripe section for 42 rows, a solid color section for 42 rows, then the prescribed 30 rows of edging. At least. That will put me at around 114 rows and 72 stitches over the pattern. If the solid color section looks like it needs to be longer, I will just keep going. Lord knows I might as well use up some yarn!

Speaking of using yarn, I’m sad to report that I’m on something of a yarn diet. While my mom was in town, we got into a rhythm of checking out thrift stores and just poking around. Predictably, I always found the yarn section and my rate of acquisition increased (by a lot). I tried to limit my purchases to yarn with at least some cotton or wool content and with enough yardage to be useful. I think my best find was at our local Goodwill By The Pound, or GWBTP as we’ve dubbed it. The official name is the Goodwill Outlet, I think. We discovered this place about three years ago, shortly after we moved. Have others found similar places? It’s a Goodwill but instead of items being priced individually, everything is sold by weight. Clothes are a certain price per pound, housewares another, etc. etc. Shoes and furniture are sold individually at very low prices. For someone like me who loves to pick through stuff to find bargains, it’s pretty much akin to heaven. I do have to be in the right mood as it’s labor intensive and, frankly, pretty gross. But I’ve found some awesome stuff there for ridiculously low prices.

Anyway, a day or two before my mom left for home, we stopped by the GWBTP for a bit. I almost never find yarn there and, when I do, it’s usually in really poor condition. The wifey once found a ball of nice kitchen cotton there that became flower washcloths, but that’s it. Well, that day I found a bag of yarn with several unmarked balls along with three nearly full skeins of Rowan Kidsilk Haze. I would describe the color as electric purple. I love it. That yarn typically retails for around $15 a skein. I don’t know exactly how much that bag of yarn cost me, but it was well under a dollar. Just call me Charlie Sheen!

IMG_3843I also found a big batch of knitting and crochet needles in a fabric case. I sorted them all out the other night and added the hooks and dpns to my inventory. I haven’t gotten to the straight needles yet. Here’s a shot of the bunch:

IMG_3845That doesn’t include the case or the straight needle orphans. That’s 16 pairs of straights, one circ, five complete sets of dpns, three crochet hooks and two stitch holders. The handful of dpns in the upper right corner are orphans. I’ll keep them so I can supplement some of the four needle sets I have. The bag was $7. Some of the things are really interesting. For instance, the set of 5 tiny dpns half wedged under the packet of red needles is a very old set of sock or stocking needles. Those are gauge 0. I have another set just like them except 00. If I ever decide to knit stockings, I’ll be all set. Also, there’s a set of 10″ red aluminum dpns. I love longer dpns–they come in handy if I don’t have the right size circ and they’re easier for me because I have large hands. The two steel crochet hooks are a bit of a mystery to me. I tried doing some online research to determine what sizes they are but didn’t have much luck. I do know that one of them is the smallest crochet hook I’ve ever seen by far. I suppose I could use it to fix dropped stitches when I start knitting my cobweb-weight stockings with my 00 dpns (ha).

After my mom went home, the steady rhythm of thrift store shopping has slowed. That’s probably a good thing as I don’t really need yarn. I still keep an eye on sales online but am limiting myself to only really lovely yarn at equally lovely prices. What? I can’t just stop cold turkey! At least I have projects in mind for lots of it. I intend to keep it moving and, in my mind, that justifies my stash.

Right?

EDIT: I’m posting from a coffee shop with less-than-awesome wifi. The images in this post aren’t showing up when I try to view it. If that’s the case for anyone else, please leave a comment and I will try to fix it when I have a better connection.

A Little Knitting Business

I’ve been so engrossed in my awesome Drachenfels that I’ve failed to mention a few really important things. So, I will attempt to get caught up now. First off, I’ve toyed with the site a bit and changed some things around to match my aesthetic a little better. As part of this I also changed my blog name to be a little simpler, clearer, and to correspond better with my ravelry handle (alexand). So, welcome to alexand knits! The new URL is alexandknits.wordpress.com. Hopefully the old one will redirect and all will find me. When I started, andalexand was the best iteration of my typical username that I could come up with. I honestly didn’t think it would matter much because I didn’t think anyone would read!

Second, I recently became aware of this awesome group with an awesome mission. They’re called The Yarn MissiOn and they use “yarn to promote Action and Change to eradicate racism, sexism, and other systems of oppression”. I encourage anyone living in the US (particularly) to check them out and see if there are ways you can help out. I think it’s brilliant that this group of fiber enthusiasts and artists has chosen to target racism, in particular. Knitting has brought me both joy and connection to community, so I think it makes sense that it could also bring people acceptance and foster connection between others. Please check them out! They also have a group on ravelry.

Last, um, knitty.com!! Their deep fall 2015 issue is out and it’s breathtaking. I haven’t talked about knitty much on this blog, but that site has played a key role in my development as a knitter. For those who haven’t experienced knitty.com, it’s a free online knitting (and spinning) magazine that comes out at least quarterly. It always has a number of fully developed patterns as well as techniques, knitting and fiber news and articles, and resources to all sorts of things. I think my first project from knitty was a Kureyon Kozy. I made at least three, two of which were given away as gifts. The third? I have it somewhere but not sure where. That pattern served as the starting point for making a number of circular double layer pot holders as well as some Mason jar cozies.

IMG_3273There are a handful of other projects from knitty that I’ve made, and just now I’m contemplating casting on my very own iconic Clapotis. Beyond the patterns, though, knitty has been an amazing resource for various techniques and methods. It also helped connect me to the knitting world in general as it was the first online knitting magazine that I know of. Its publications have always been so imaginative, creative and lighthearted. Its influence on my knitting (and me) has been huge.

So yes, there is a new issue out, and it is awesome.

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you without a Drachenfels update! I put in a little more work on it over the past couple of days. I have phased out the charcoal and am working with the dark grey and spruce now. Soon I will bring in the light blue. Yesterday, I went to the Ply Party at Baltimore’s LovelYarns LYS. It was basically a yarn store party with some local spinners and dyers invited to set up booths. There were also cupcakes. I didn’t end up buying anything, but I did sit and work on my knitting for a bit. While doing so, I noticed a weird stitch a ways back. It looked kind of like I had purled a stitch by accident (the whole thing is garter stitch) or maybe just picked up part of adjacent stitch in a weird way. Not sure, but it wasn’t right and it definitely wasn’t going to block out. So I got out my crochet hook “scalpel” and got to operating.

IMG_3787That’s almost 25 rows down! It always gives me a small heart attack to drop a stitch on purpose, but once I was done knitting it back up you couldn’t even tell. You can see in that pic a little bit of how I decided to handle the color transition. Here’s the rest:

IMG_3793I’m still really happy with it.

Oliver, one of the kitties, was looking particularly picturesque yesterday. He was sleeping in my daughter’s doll cradle:

IMG_3791“What, Mom??? I was sleeping!”

IMG_3792Photo credit for the cat pics goes to the wifey.

The Perils of Knitting

As I walked up the stairs last night to go to bed, I noticed an irritated spot near the base of my right thumb. I thought it was odd, but didn’t think about it any longer than it took to vaguely register it was there. This morning as I was getting a couple of rows in on my Drachenfels, a sudden stab of pain told me what it was. You know my lovely new Addis? The sharp pointed, nickel coated, red cabled ones? Yeah, I was stabbing myself in the hand with them, just often enough to actually cut myself. Whoops…I will have to be a little more careful!

My wound is evidence that I’ve been getting a lot of time in on my project, though. I am tossing around a few other project ideas, but I want to see this one mostly through before I start something else. I’m up to just shy of 200 stitches so the rows are taking longer and longer. The pattern calls for increasing to 240 stitches but I plan on taking it far past that.

I incorporated the third color (dark grey) yesterday. This is how I decided to do it:

IMG_3785The plan is to do another few stripes then drop the charcoal and continue with just two colors. If I had it to do over, I might have chosen to do two stripes of the grey, then two of charcoal, etc. instead of one. I know I could pull it out and redo but…probably not happening this time. Now that I think about it, I could switch to that pattern now before phasing out the charcoal. So if the charcoal is A, the spruce is B and the dark grey is C (and they are), I could go from A B C B A B C B to A B A B C B C B a couple of times, then switch to C B C B. I think that might look pretty cool. Then, once the charcoal is out, I’ll eventually add D (light blue) and phase out B in the same way. By then I should have approximately half a million stitches so I will have achieved my goal of making it larger than called for!

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This is the current state of things:

IMG_3786I’ve had a couple things I’ve had to remedy. I had to drop a stitch down 6 or 8 garter ridges to fix something weird that I did (never figured out exactly what it was) and knit it back up. Another time, I dropped a stitch but for the life of me couldn’t figure out how to fix it. So I tinked back over a row and a half to get a better look at it. I fiddled around with it for a while before determining that I had fixed it, probably right away, and all the ensuing fiddling had just served to distort and loosen up that whole area. A little judicious tugging later and it was back to normal, no dropped stitch in sight.

In terms of other upcoming projects, I’m thinking I might make a purple clapotis for the wifey’s mom. Is it just me, or does “purple clapotis” sound not quite right? In any case, I have over 900 yards of purple Plymouth Yarn DK Merino Superwash that I think would make a nice wrap. I’m still not exactly certain what she wants, but I figure I can always make her another one sometime so she has some variety. Other stuff is still on the back burner, so I won’t go into them yet. One thing I will mention is that I’m thinking of trying to do some autumn and winter/Christmas decorative stuff with some of my stash. Should be fun!

Drachenfels and Virtual Sock Club

One thing I love to do is sit at a coffee shop (and have a coffee), knit, chat, and just enjoy the scenery. Since I’ve been off work for a while, I’ve had the luxury of doing just that more than usual. Today I had time to go by myself and put in a little time on my Drachenfels:

IMG_3782You might notice the skyr in the corner. Well, my mom recently took a trip to Iceland where she was introduced to the stuff. While she was in town, we discovered that they carry it at Whole Foods so I was able to experience it, too. If you’ve never tried it, I would suggest you get your hands on some as it’s really, really lovely. It tastes something like a cross between extra thick and creamy Greek yogurt and cream cheese. I’m glad it’s available here but I’d still like to go to Iceland!

I was able to make even more progress this evening:

IMG_3783It’s hard to see in the pic, but I’ve finished the initial part with the dotted lines and started the alternating color garter ridges. I’m still trying to decide exactly how to make this a four color pattern instead of a three color one, but I still have some time before I have to have it all figured out.

I am really, really loving this project. It’s miles and miles of garter stitch, which gets a little tedious, but I’m so excited about how the colors are going to work together that I don’t really mind. I can’t wait to see how it looks on!

IMG_3776In the meantime, things are slowly getting better. I’m getting treatment for my back injury, getting all the paperwork in so that I can return to work, and feeling pretty good. There’s still a lot hanging over my head, but I’m coping. The knitting might be helping with that. A lot.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming virtual sock knitting get together with Maggienesium, MrsKristyHoll, pkcacciola and others! This will be my first attempt at socks, so I’ve been starting to think about what pattern would be good. I have a few books on sock knitting and some patterns in mind, so I’ll poke through what I have and pick something out. This will shock no one, but I have plenty of sock yarn on hand!