The Knitter’s Handshake

You all know what I’m talking about, right? That moment when you spot someone wearing a handknit? And maybe she sees yours? You make eye contact and smile, and invariably someone ends up whipping off a shawl to show it off, or asking to feel the yarn. You share pattern and yarn information, maybe talk about your favorite designers. When you go on your merry way, you have a new warm feeling in your soul. Well, this happened to me a couple of days ago at a Starbucks. I was wearing my Miller’s Daughter and she was wearing a lovely tonal blue asymmetrical shawl (she couldn’t remember what pattern it was). We admired each others’ work and chatted for a minute about the beauty of mixing garter stripes and lace.

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My Miller’s Daughter

I find interactions like these to be truly lovely. It helps me feel connected to the knitting world and its own special culture. I also love getting inspiration from other people’s projects. It’s one thing to see pictures of things on ravelry, but seeing real handknits in the “wild” is something else entirely. That was one of the best things I took away from Rhinebeck last month: seeing so many beautiful handknits, and so many people wearing them with pride.

So, speaking of Rhinebeck…it was amazing! The weather was beautiful, the house we rented was awesome, the leaves were perfect, and the yarn! So much yarn! I actually didn’t buy a single thing. There were too many options to choose from! I did love getting the chance to see and feel beautiful yarns that I’ve only come across online. As you might imagine, there were tons of gradients and gradient mini skein packs, as well as speckled yarns galore. There were also a number of sellers who had lovely breed-specific wools (beyond the great but ubiquitous merino). I liked seeing the different wools and looking at all the knitted samples on display. It’s all food for thought that I’ve filed away for the next time I need to buy some yarn, ha ha.

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Beautiful weather at Rhinebeck!

On Saturday evening of Rhinebeck weekend, my mom and I went to an open studio event at Jill Draper Makes Stuff. It was packed! Stephen West was there doing a book signing as well as Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting. And, of course, tons of beautiful yarns in breathtaking colors. We considered not going as we were both very tired from a long day of yarn gazing and toddler wrangling, but we decided to push through. I’m so glad we did!

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The kidlet taking a break after looking at lots (and lots) of yarn.

A major highlight of that weekend was meeting up in person with some wonderful friends on ravelry. I got to meet Carol (cehermanator) of knit equals joy, as well as her friends Jen (jenb69) and Meg (stamura). They were just as lovely in person as they are online. I am so glad I got to see them!

Things have been quite busy lately, but I am managing to squeeze in some knitting time. I’m working on knocking out a bunch of commissions currently and am looking forward to having time to do some of my own knitting soon. I have two of three Christmas stockings nearly done:

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And I’m about to bind off a purple alpaca Easy Folded Poncho:

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I recently finished sewing together two sweaters, and I have a third that I’m starting on today. All are finishing jobs I picked up at my LYS.

I have so much more I could share, but I’ll save it for another post. In the meantime, my blog was mentioned on the ravelry front page yesterday! Thanks to FogKnits for letting me know. I will leave you with some more photos from our weekend in Rhinebeck. These were all taken by the wifey and are copyright Callandra S. Cook.

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Lunch on the deck!

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Taking a walk with Baby Jade

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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!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Knit!

Get ready for a doozy of a sock post tomorrow–lots to tell on that front! Otherwise, I’ve been working on my third spa cloth test knit for Carol at knit equals joy. Here’s a teaser pic:

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This one doesn’t have a name yet. It’s cast off now, but needs a bit of blocking before I can get better pics. I love pretty much anything that includes knitted mesh lace! So easy and it looks awesome. What’s not to love? Also, in case you missed it, Carol has published The Queen’s Spa Cloth and Cinderella’s Spa Cloth. They’re both on sale for a significant discount (and they are very reasonably priced to begin with) so check them out if you are interested!

I’ve been itching to cast on for something big–a giant shawl, perhaps? But I don’t know when I’m going to get to it. I have sweater pieces to block and sew together (for a friend at my LYS) and a couple of other projects that need wrapping up. Also, I’m contemplating participating in the 2016 Ravellenic Games. For that, the idea is to knit along while the Olympics are happening. For projects to qualify for prizes, they need to be started and finshed during the 2016 Summer Olympics, so August 8 through August 21. I’m trying to think of projects that are on the small to medium size so that I could conceivably get them done in that window.

One of the projects I’m considering is this Mesh Lace Slouchy Hat by Jaime Sande, free on ravelry. I’ve posted about this one before, so I won’t go into a ton of detail. I have a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca that should be perfect for it.

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Another is this Neon Ski Bonnet by Lacey Volk. This one’s also a free ravelry download.

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I matched this pattern a while back with a skein of Cascade 220 in a rather fantastic shade of coral.

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If I don’t run out of Cascade Ultra Pima Fine from testing spa cloths, I will whip out a Castle Beach Spa Cloth, also by Carol.

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Also, there’s one more cloth to test, so I could do that too! I’m sure I can find something appropriate in my stash for one of them. Maybe I’ll do the Castle cloth in stripes so I can use up the last of the purple and blue.

Nothing else that’s currently in my queue is in the small to medium range (except a pair of Purl Soho legwarmers that I’m not sure I’m going to make), but those are likely to keep me busy for a while. If I knock all of those out, then maybe I’ll finally make that pair of Metolius River Mitts I’ve been promising myself for months now!

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Are you joining in the friendly knitting competition? What projects are you planning on doing? Anyone crazy enough to be doing a sweater or another large project?

All pattern photos are from the ravelry pattern pages. Copyrights are to each designer.

 

FO Spotlight: Cinderella’s Spa Cloth

I jut finished up* my second spa cloth test knit for Carol at knit equals joy! Rumor has it she will be releasing them as an e-book, so stay tuned!

The rundown

Pattern: Cinderella’s Spa Cloth (not yet published) by Carol E. Herman. This pattern will be part of her spa cloth series. The two published patterns in the series are Fairy Godmother’s Spa Cloth and Castle Beach Spa Cloth. I also tested Queen’s Spa Cloth.

Yarn: 65 yards of Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima Fine, same as for the Queen’s Cloth. This one used just shy of a half of a skein, so you could probably squeeze two in for optimum yarn usage! Also, this pattern is very flexible–you could just knit the second one until you had just enough yarn to cast off.

Size made: Per pattern. You can do more or fewer rows to customize the size.

Needles: US4s.

Techniques used: Nothing crazy. I used longtail cast on and standard bind off.

Modifications: None.

Difficulty: Easy. This could be a great first or second project for a new knitter.

Ravelled: here.

The Pretty

First off, I need to share my starting pic. For whatever reason, I just love it!

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I estimated the yarn length for my longtail cast on just right, on the first try! It’s the small joys in life, right? I think the other reason I love this pic is that you can see a hint of my lovely yarn bowl. I don’t use it all that often because I usually work from center pull cakes, but it came in handy for this project.

Okay, enough teasing. Here are the finished pics!

A lot of my comments on the Queen’s Cloth apply to this one, as well. It’s basically the same design, just without the loopy scalloped border. It’s a quick and easy knit that produces a polished, lovely cloth. What more can I say?

I can say at least one more thing: even for a simple project like this, Carol’s pattern is lovely. Everything is clearly and concisely written, and her attention to detail shows. This is the kind of pattern that takes knitting from “home made” to “hand made”.

Happy knitting!

*Full disclosure: It’s not actually technically finished yet. I didn’t weave in the ends! I was in a hurry to get pictures earlier, so I cut corners, so to speak. I’m going to do it at my knitting group tonight 🙂

FO Spotlight: Queen’s Spa Cloth

I did this quick little test knit for Carol of knit equals joy. I’ve got at least one more in the works, so stay tuned for more to come!

The rundown

Pattern: Queen’s Spa Cloth (not yet published) by Carol E. Herman. This pattern is a continuation of her spa cloth series, which so far includes Fairy Godmother’s Spa Cloth and Castle Beach Spa Cloth.

Yarn: 76 yards of Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima Fine. It’s a 100% cotton sport weight yarn. It’s very soft and has a nice, subtle shine.

Size made: Per pattern. You can do more or fewer repeats to customize the size.

Needles: US4s.

Techniques used: Nothing that’s not well described in the pattern. The loopy scalloped stitch on the bottom (well, really the side edge) was new to me, but once I’d given it a try, it was very easy.

Modifications: None.

Difficulty: Somewhere between easy and intermediate. This would not be a good choice for someone’s first project, but would be fine for someone comfortable with yos, slipped stitches and “reading” their knitting.

Ravelled: here.

The Pretty

Here’s a closer look at the bottom edge:

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This was a quick and fun knit. As usual, Carol’s pattern was extremely well written and easy to follow. I enjoyed learning some new things! One thing I particularly love about this pattern is the attention to detail. The “top” edge uses a different slipped stitch technique than I’ve used before, and it makes a very clean and neat edge:

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Also, the slipped stitch details in the interior look almost like piping. They add a nice, finished touch to the cloth. This project was pretty and fun. I think it would make a lovely gift paired with a bar of fancy soap.

Thanks again to Carol for letting me test another pattern for her! I’m looking forward to casting on for the next one.

Happy knitting!

Thursday Sock-Along: Sock Karma!

I am so excited for today’s sock post! I’m getting close to finishing my Petty Harbour socks as I’ve turned the second heel and finished the gusset decreases. All I have now is the foot and toe, and they tend to go pretty quickly. Last night, I was knitting away on my socks, thinking about what pair to cast on next, when knitting karma struck again! My friend Carol of knit equals joy unexpectedly gifted me a sock pattern. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Carol, thank you for your thoughtfulness!

The pattern is Susan B. Anderson’s Smooth Operator Socks. It’s a top-down pattern with an afterthought heel and a few special details that give them an extra sleek look. The pattern is an amazing 14 pages long and gives directions for both dpns and magic loop. It’s very well written. There are actually two versions of the pattern: a detailed description of all the steps and a more streamlined, at a glance version. Pretty cool! I have the needles now to do them TAAT so all I have to do is pick out some yarn!

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Copyright susan b. anderson, via ravelry

The pattern is designed to create uninterrupted stripes when using a self-striping yarn. I think it looks really cool! Also, the pattern offers four different sizes in fingering weight yarn as well as one size in worsted weight. You all know how I love a versatile knitting pattern, right?

I’m really loving how my Petty Harbour socks are turning out! I love the colors and, as I mentioned, I’m really happy with the way the gussets turned out.

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Check out what my fellow Thursday sock knitters are doing! It’s turning into quite a group, so I will list them:

Also, I’d recommend checking out Wolfberryknits’ post on her Australiana Socks–they’re masterfully done, from start to finish! If you want to join up, just post and link up. Leave a comment and I’ll link back to your blog. Also, I started the tag #thursdaysockalong on IG if you want to post there, too.

Happy sock knitting!

Every Time

Stuff is hard right now, as I’ve mentioned. However, it seems like whenever I’m getting too down on myself, something happens to help me change my focus. Sometimes it’s a blog post that really strikes a chord for me, or a knitting group meetup, or getting a really cool free pattern or something. It often comes from my fiber community, local or virtual. 

Today, it was this:

 

Envelope is facedown to protect the innocent


I was just sitting down to have a cup of half cocoa, half coffee, thinking about whatever random negative noise was in my head, and thought I would check the mail. I found an envelope and recognized the name on the return address right away. Here, you can open it with me:

  In case you can’t tell, that’s yarn in there! To be specific, handspun yarn made of merino, silk and cashmere. It’s 168 yards of soft, squooshy, subtly sparkly yarn that I “won” from the Passport Mitts KAL. I’m putting won in quotes because it’s a random number situation, not one where I actually did anything above and beyond. Just got lucky! The colors are tonal and muted and remind me very much of the beach near my family at the Gulf of Mexico–soft pinks and purples like the coquinas and beautiful blue of the sky, all tied together with the color of pale sand. It makes me warm just looking at it. 
  
To boot, Carol included a lovely thank you card. Honestly, I didn’t do anything–I just showed up and knit! She organized the KAL and came up with the lovely prizes (and wrote the pattern). I’ve done nothing but benefit. 

This is why knitting is my saving grace right now. I’m not just sitting alone in a vacuum making pointless motions. I’m creating things in the context of many, many others, and we’re all intertwined if only just a little bit. The fiber world just keeps giving me things–yarn and patterns, but also love and support. I’m trying to revel in it as much as I can so that I can turn around and do the same for others. Thank you!

Stop by Carol’s ravelry group and/or her blog, knit = joy to learn of upcoming patterns and events. There might be a really cool hat in the pipelines 🙂

Very, very happy knitting!