So Behind! And an FO Spotlight!

Oh blog, I’ve missed you! It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve been stretched a little thin. I went back to work (after nearly a year on leave) and whew! It’s been challenging, and it hasn’t left me with a lot of free emotional energy for blogging. I am hoping that as I adjust to being back, things will settle and I’ll get into more of a routine, and that there will be space in that routine for regular blogging again.

As you might expect, my knitting time has been affected as well. I have been able to get some things done, though! I ended up with two projects entered into the Ravellenic Games, one WIP and one baby blanket (which I finished with mere minutes to spare). I have yet to get prettified photos of either, so I will wait to share them for a bit.

Earlier this month, Ambah O’Brien posted a testing call for a new cowl pattern.
You might remember I tested her Merinda Shawl pattern a while back:

Well, I love that shawl. It was a lovely pattern and a joy to knit, and I admire many of her other patterns (someday I’ll make a Lilli Pilli). She’s posted a number of testing calls since then, but they’ve mostly been shawls and I just haven’t had the time to squeeze any in. Since this one was a cowl, I just couldn’t resist. I ended up racing a little to get it done, but I did it! It was blocked, dried and photographed by the due date. So, I give you my Mendia Cowl!

The rundown

Pattern: Mendia Cowl by Ambah O’Brien. Not published yet.

Yarn: 308 yards of Noro Silk Garden Lite. I had this in my stash. I have no memory of where it came from!

Size made: One. Finished dimensions are about 29″ in circumference by 13″ tall.

Needles: US6s.

Techniques used: Longtail cast on and a modified stretchy cast off that Ambah developed.

Modifications: None.

Difficulty: I think this pattern is intermediate. The stitch pattern is a little complicated at first blush, but it makes sense once you get into it. The tricky part is making sure you can read your knitting very well as fixing mistakes is challenging.

Ravelled: here.

The Pretty

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I ran into a few knots in the yarn (as seems to happen a lot with Noro). I chose to just carry on with whatever color was there and not worry about keeping the color sequence uninterrupted. I like the slightly more random outcome that gave me. As I was knitting, I kept thinking the colors looked like a southwestern sunset.

Since the yarn I chose is a loosely spun single with some variability in its thickness, the stitch definition isn’t very high. So, the chevron pattern doesn’t pop as much as it could. Other than that, I really like this yarn for the pattern. I like the color gradations, the drape and the texture. Here are some closer pics:

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It ended up with an unexpected rainbow pattern! That’s fine, though–I can rock some rainbows:

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Enjoy this rare sighting of me.

I couldn’t get any better pics because, even in the air conditioning, I couldn’t stand to have it on more than a few seconds! It has been very hot here this month. I am looking forward to fall, and to bringing out my wraps and shawls again!

In all, this ended up being a quick knit, even with lots of twisted stitches and a somewhat fiddly stitch pattern. I think it would look great in a variety of different yarns. In a high-twist merino semisolid, it would have great depth of color and a lot more drape. In this more rustic single, it has a lot of structure which helps it sit well. I’m very happy with it! I have almost two skeins of yarn left, so I might make a hat or mitts to match. I foresee this getting a lot of use this winter!

Happy knitting!

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Quickie

Just a quick post here to say that I might not be online/blogging/on rav as much as usual over the next week or two. There’s lots going on chez moi and the unfortunate result is that I won’t have much time to knit, much less talk about knitting. The long and short of it is that I am going back to work, starting tomorrow.This is both good and bad, but I’m hoping the net result will be good.

My performance in the Ravellenic Games might suffer as a result. I got off to a crazy good start and had my baby blanket about a third of the way done in just a couple of days. I’m still making progress, but it has slowed a little. Here’s my latest progress pic:

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In the two days since I took this photo, I have finished the second section and gotten about halfway through the third. I am seriously loving the pattern and how mine is turning out, and could easily see making another one in the future.

I got the opportunity to sign up to test for Ambah O’Brien, and just couldn’t resist. So, on my next day off, I will dig out some yarn and start swatching for a really interesting cowl. More on that sometime later.

I don’t have a new sock project picked out yet, so I will sit tomorrow’s Thursday Sock-Along out. By next week I will hopefully have something new to share!

So, I’m not gone–just lurking a bit. Keep on knitting and I will check in soon.

Happy knitting!

Thursday Sock-Along: WTF, Stripes? Done!

I am pleased as punch (where did that saying come from?) to report that my WTF, Stripes? socks are officially done! They were such a rewarding project because of both the amount I learned and the awesome finished product. I’m going to do this a little differently than my usual FO spotlight format as this project has a rather complicated timeline.

The Beginning

For this pair of socks, I wanted to continue with my overall sock knitting goals: learn new techniques and sock constructions and get closer to finding a sock pattern that fits me well. This pattern was given to me by Carol at just the right time: I was done with my last pair and needed something new, and it incorporated new-to-me techniques. Plus, it just looked really cool! So I picked out my yarn, Regia 4-fädig Mini Ringel Color, and got started. Because the pattern was a gift and I used yarn from my freecycle score, this project cost me only my time.

The pattern, Susan B. Anderson‘s Smooth Operator Socks, is designed to make cuff-down socks with self-striping yarn. The pattern incorporates a modified afterthought heel which allows the stripe sequence to continue uninterrupted through the ankle and instep. The heel modifications allow for a better fit as apparently afterthought heels are often too shallow. I had already decided I wanted my next pair to be toe-up. However, this pattern was easily modified so that didn’t present any problems. I also wanted to do them TAAT. When I do them one at a time, I tend to knit the second sock much tighter. Doing them at the same time would help me keep my gauge more consistent.

I learned from my last pair of socks that I don’t always get 8 sts/” on US1s. For this pair, I went up to US2s and checked my gauge early on. I got around 8.5 sts/”, which was fine. I chose to knit the 72 st size. I used Judy’s Magic Cast On for the toes and got going. Since I was using a pattern specifically designed to show off stripes, I figured I’d try to make my socks match. I started each at (what I thought was) the exact same spot in the color sequence. I actually kind of prefer fraternal twin socks, but I wanted to learn new things!

The Process

Since I was doing toe-up instead of cuff-down, I needed to choose an increase to use for the toes. I initially did left and right raised increases, but I didn’t like the way they looked. I ripped them out and restarted, using m1r and m1l instead. I liked that much better. I wasn’t sure how long to knit the foot before adding waste yarn for the heel. I estimated two inches less than my foot length. After knitting about an inch past the waste yarn, I went back and did the heels…then tried the socks on. And, they were just too big…by about an inch!

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Note the extra length at both the toe and the heel. And the Ms. Potato Head in the background.

I deliberated for a bit, but ultimately ripped out the inch or so of leg, the heels, and an inch and a half of the foot. I re-added my waste yarn and kept going. This time, after I did the heels, the fit was perfect! So, I learned that leaving about 3.5″ for the afterthought heel works well for me.

I made a couple of modifications to the heels the second time around. I started the decreases one round sooner and didn’t decrease as much. I only decreased to 40 sts instead of 28. I decided on this just by trying the sock on every few rows. I guess my heel isn’t as pointy as most! After those modifications, I was much happier with the fit.

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Better, right?

Another thing I did differently on the heels the second time around has to do with how I picked up stitches on the corners of the heel openings. It’s a long story but, suffice it to say, I got much smaller/nonexistent holes. What little gap remained I was able to close up while weaving in the ends.

If you look closely at the two pics above, you’ll notice that they are not identical twins. Even though I started at identical spots in the yarn’s stripe sequence, they didn’t stay identical for long! They each started out with two stripes each of orange, yellow, red and pink. Then, things got a little random. So much for planning! In any case, I just carried on knitting the leg and cuff. I kept going as long as I could in an attempt to use up as much yarn as possible. Interestingly enough, the stripes started matching up again at the top! So they start and end with two stripes each of orange, yellow, red and pink. The only difference at the end was the very last stripe, which made an appearance halfway through each bind off. One was yellow and the other orange. I actually ran out of yarn while binding off one of the socks, so I russian joined some yarn on. I didn’t want to pull a row out and redo it! I like having the extra pop of color on the bind off and, since I used JSSBO, it would have been really irritating to undo.

The End

All told, I used 395 yards of yarn. The legs/cuffs are about 8.5″ long. I like the yarn a lot–the stripes and colors are awesome, and it’s not too coarse for sock yarn. I will give them a wash and a soak and they will probably soften up a bit. I cast on with US1s for a neater toe and switched to US2s on the second or third round. I used Addi Sock Rockets with 40″ cables and knitted them on magic loop.

As for the pattern? I would highly recommend it for first time sock knitters and 100th time sock knitters. There are a number of little tips and tricks included that really make the socks turn out smooth and streamlined, including a modified Kitchener stitch and sleek decreases. Susan posted on her rav group recently that she’s actually come up with some more tricks to make the pattern even better, and she’ll be releasing them sometime next week. The pattern has many clear and detailed pictures and includes links to video tutorials for more information. In particular, there’s a neat trick for picking up gusset corner stitches that I will probably use any time I need to pick up heel or gusset stitches. If you’re at all on the fence, the pattern is still discounted and her KAL is still going on.

Last, but not least:

The Pretty

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Sorry (not sorry) for the giant pics. I couldn’t help myself.

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Afterthought heels look funny! They’re really just extra toes.

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Look, Ma! No holes!

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Pretty, pretty toes!

Get ready for even more pic spam!!!

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Image copyright Callandra S. Cook

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Image copyright Callandra S. Cook

Clearly, I love pretty much everything about these socks!

Are you doing any sock knitting? Feel free to post about it on Thursdays and link up with the group! Also, you can share your projects on Instagram with the tag #thursdaysockalong. Check out my fellow Thursday sock knitters here:

Pre-Gaming

The Ravellenic Games start in just a couple of days. This doesn’t mesh up very well with my knitting timetable. I don’t want to cast on for a big project because I’d have to put it aside shortly. I don’t really want to cast on for little projects, because I could just wait and do them during the Games. But, since I have to knit, I went ahead and did it anyway.

My potholder is about halfway done. I haven’t decided yet what color to make the other side, but I’ve narrowed it down to three choices:

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I think I’m leaning toward the yellow, but I’m not sure yet. Thoughts? Opinions?

Another quick project I started is Belle’s Spa Cloth, another test knit for Carol. This has been something of a comedy of errors. I would have started sooner but I needed help winding the skein into a ball. I drafted someone at my knitting group last night to help me*. While sitting at my LYS today, I looked around for my needles so I could cast on. Nope, couldn’t find them. I grabbed an extra pair of US4s lying around and got started. Before I left, I transferred it onto a spare circ I had in my bag. I got home, found the right needles, and started to knit. Well, I knit the next row with the US4s, but forgot to put the extra circ down. I knit several rows alternating between the 4s and the extra, which was US2. I eventually realized it when I looked down and noticed I was still holding both needles. Whoops! It made the tension really weird, so I pulled it out and started over. Now, I think I’m good to go. It doesn’t look like much yet, but here’s what I have so far:

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I think those two projects will tide me over until Friday. If I finish them both and need something else, I’ll just start another potholder. Or some socks. There’s always socks!

Happy knitting!

*Last time, I asked the wifey to help me. She did, but she complained the whole time 🙂 So, I figured I’d lean on a fellow knitter instead!

Learning is Fun

Now that my WTF, Stripes? socks are done (more on that on Thursday), I needed a new project. I’ve got a few things brewing, but nothing quite ready to cast on yet. So I grabbed the kitchen cotton I got at the thrift store the other day and got ready to knit a potholder.

Several years back, I made a number of potholders using the beginning of knitty’s Kureyon Kozy pattern. They were double layered circles, knit in the round from the inside out, joined with a three needle bind off. Here are pictures of the only one I still have. Clearly, it’s been loved!

The color in the second pic is off–it’s really more of a light blue. Since it’s clearly on its last legs, I figured I’d make a couple more. I dug out the Kureyon Kozy pattern and cast on. I knit a handful of rows and decided it just wasn’t working for me. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get the cast on tight enough, and I didn’t like the way the increases (kfb) looked. I went back to the drawing board–ravelry. I searched for round patterns and stumbled across this Sunny Side Up placemat (free download on KnitPicks). That pattern calls for a circular cast on. I read through the directions but they made exactly zero sense to me. So, my good friend google came to the rescue. I searched for circular cast ons and found a handful of different ones, mostly variations on each other. I settled on the disappearing loop cast on and used this video to do it.

I got going. It took several tries, but I eventually came up with something I like a lot. The trick for me was to cast on and knit the first row or two on needles much smaller than I’m using for the rest of the project. Maybe that wouldn’t be necessary with a more slippery yarn, which would make it easier to pull the circle tight. But, with kitchen cotton, I couldn’t get it to snug up enough. So, I cast on with US2s and switched to US5s on the third round. It worked great!

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I love that I’m always learning new knitting tricks!