Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stupid Hat

Wakefield homespun Why are you resisting my attempts to knit you?

Trust me, you'll be much happier as a hat.

Seriously, right now all you are is a yarn ball. You're not even a hat! Just a blob falling far short of your potential.

Attempt 1
This is a 3 oz skein of handspun yarn I bought at a farmer's market in New Hampshire back in 2003 (or so).

The market was in Wakefield, which was one of the towns I covered for the newspaper, and when we thought we might fall short of filler pictures I'd go and take random shots there.

You know, stand alone images of cute local kid helping mommy buy local produce.

Well, one day I finally gave in and bought the yarn.

Since then it has languished in my stash as I've alternately wondered
  1. What on earth did I think I was going to be able to make with just one 3 oz skein?
  2. Is it going to make me itch?
Finally, the other weekend when I was all disenchanted with my active projects, I busted it out and decided it might be enough for a hat.

Of course, the hat I attempted to make had lots of cables. (I cannot tell you more than that as I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the pattern yet. Provided it's any good.)

I hit a point where I totally knew I was going to run out of yarn, but I kept knitting anyway—because you never know.

When I did finally run out I didn't have the heart to pull out all that work, especially since I'm not sure what else I'd do with it. The good news is it didn't bother my hands too much as I worked with it. The bad news is it did make my forehead itch a wee bit, so maybe a hat wouldn't have worked out anyway.

This leaves me with an interesting cabled tube. I have resisted feeding it to the puppies in a fit of spite. Mainly because it wouldn't be good for them and I don't want to encourage their interest in my yarn.

I'm thinking I'll mail it to my unsuspecting mom to see what she thinks. Maybe she can creatively attach some fabric and make an interesting little bag thingy. If I ponder this plan long enough, she'll be here for our trip to Rhinebeck and I'll save myself a trip to the post office. hehehe.

Attempt 2
As I think it's going to be a really cool hat, if I can pull it off, I then turned my attention to harvesting this scarf. Alpaca cable scarfI made it for Hubby back in, oh 2006 (which is pre-blog).

It is the Karabella pattern KK239, which is for a hat and this scarf.
I used Misti Alpaca Chunky yarn.
The pattern was fairly easy.
The yarn was dreamy.
But the poor scarf was no match for Hubby. Turns out he wore it all day, every day that winter.

The thing about this yarn is it's very soft and squishy. It was like knitting with a cloud. As I understand it, this softness is because alpaca has short fibers. Sadly, short fibers are more likely to fuzz out—and pill up.

The scarf shed like crazy. He would come home with little pills all over his suit coat and stuck in his facial hair.

At one point I washed it, thinking that might refresh it, but it only exacerbated the whole dead animal look.

The following winter I made him a new scarf, and this one went into exile on a coat hook.

I think it will make a lovely hat. I think a hat will control the shedding/pilling issue since hats aren't generally subjected to the same amount of wear & tear a scarf experiences.

Only the hat it is currently turning into is too big.

Alpaca cable fuzzMath Sucks!
Help me out here. My head is about 21 inches, I figured a 20 inch hat would be good.

With the handspun stuff I was getting 3 sts/inch. So I cast on 60 sts. The tube seems to fit fine.

With the alpaca I'm getting 4 sts/inch. So I cast on 80 sts. Now, there are increases to accommodate the cables, but even the cast on edge is too big.

I'm thinking I'll have to go down to 72 or even 64 sts. That just seems obscene.

Of course, I'm still knitting the too big hat. I can't stop myself.

In case you're wondering, my mother-in-law was no help. She thinks the pattern had potential. I explained about it possibly being too big, but I only had around 10 rows to knit to finish it. She was like "finish it. You can always pull it out."

Sheesh. It's not even her project and she has also fallen under the delusion that it will magically be the right size when it's off the needles. I thought that only affected the actual knitter!

Hmm, maybe it will fit Hubby.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mmm, Syrup

maple syrup Warning: no knitting content ahead!

Hubby had a three-day weekend, so I took a vacation day and we trooped up to his parents' for a visit. We hadn't been there since the beginning of summer, so it was time.

I forgot my camera, which is a shame because the fall leaves were lovely.

(My mom questions why we don't visit her, but has failed to make the connection that since she comes to us at the drop of a hat we don't feel the need. Besides, the traffic to and from my mom's place sucks big time.)

Anyway. We tumbled into the house Saturday and announced our desire to go up to Lake Placid for a stroll. Or at least to a point almost at Lake Placid to get some maple syrup.

This looked highly unlikely since we were leaving Monday and there were sports to be watched on Sunday.

Making Our Escape
However, when Hubby and his dad settled down to watch the Giants (football) and Yankees (baseball), who were playing at the same time, my mother-in-law was like, "Let's get out of here!"

We started innocently enough with a trip down the mountain to the grocery store for provisions for dinner. Then we remembered the maple syrup.

She asked if I knew how to get there. This was a big question since I usually don't leave the house when we're visiting, and if I do leave Hubby is driving. (Hmm, it's not as oppressive at that sounds. I'm not actually held prisoner. They live on the side of a mountain, it's not like there is anywhere to go.)

Anyway. I was like, "Uh, it's above Keene, and beyond the lake. I think."

Which sounds extremely vague, but I'd actually named two major landmarks. Which isn't hard, considering it's a very rural area filled mostly with trees. Still, it was a little dangerous since I have trouble remembering the order of the stores and restaurants on my town's main drag and we've lived there since 2005. For instance, what if the lake was before Keene? (it isn't.)

MIL was pretty sure she knew where I meant, but we called Hubby to double check (there are, after all, two lakes in the area.) Remember, he's watching sports. This was actually the second time we called, as we had called from inside the store to have him check for rosemary (they were out).

He said it was above Keene, beyond the lake, and at the base of Mount X (which isn't the name of the mountain. I don't remember the actual name). Of course, the addition of the mountain name really nailed it down for my MIL.

No, I'm serious. This place is so rural they use mountains as directional landmarks. The benefit being that, unlike red pickup trucks and brown dogs, mountains don't tend to move.

I pointed the car toward Lake Placid and drove by instinct. Well, it's really one road with maybe two turns (because of T-stops), but you don't know how talented I am at getting lost.

Locally Grown
I couldn't remember the name at the time, but our goal was the South Meadow Farm Sugarworks. (Huh, looks like they do mail order.) We found it without a problem. Which was comforting since my MIL exclaimed she had never noticed the wee sign and they've lived in the area for almost 30 years!

Of course, right next to the wee "maple syrup" sign was a big "Lodge" sign, which threw me off for a moment. I think the big sign was redone recently, or I'd forgotten about it.

It's one of those places were there is a little sign on the road. You turn into a wall of trees to find a little one lane road. That goes in a couple blocks, then curves left, then right and you arrive in a little parking lot in front of a little building. You totally can't see anything from the road, aside from the sign.

As proof that you are in the middle of no-where, the shop is on the honor system. The syrup is on the left, jams and preserves are on the right, and a little desk to leave your payment is in the middle.

MIL asked how we found it. I said I didn't remember. We'd gone to Lake Placid, we'd seen the sign, we needed maple syrup, so we pulled it. I guess we were adventuring that day.

I wasn't messing around this day. I bought a gallon jug of Grade A medium amber syrup. (I called Hubby for a third time to check medium or light amber!)

This will last us several months. It was $45, but in the long run it is better than the little jars of dark amber I get at the local grocery store, which are expensive, don't last long, and an inferior grade.

I also got a jar of strawberry rhubarb jam. We got it once before and it was yummy. My MIL bought a more conservative size jar of syrup and a jar of blueberry jam. We cracked that open when we got home. It was yummy. It made me question if I should have got blueberry instead. But the die was cast.

Almost as exciting as finding the place was making it home without incident. And both Hubby's teams won. It was a good day all around.

I did get some knitting down while we were visiting. Maybe I'll tell you about it tomorrow, maybe I won't.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Done: Scrappy Socks 2 PO

Scrappy 2 done I finished my second pair of Scrappy Socks last night.

Which means I'm wearing a pair of brand new socks today.

Which is always fun.

I told Boss Man the problem with wearing these anklets I've made with jeans is I get a draft on my shins. I said I really have to remember to wait and wear them with shorts or a skirt.

He said he totally hates when that happens. Then he rolled his eyes and walked away. Which makes me think he wasn't being serious.

Project Stats
Anyway. There is nothing to be done for people who are jealous of my adorable socks.

This pair is from leftover Purple Jitterbug and Orange Sol Joy yarn.

I had less of both of these than I did of the Blue and Red Jitterbug I used for the first pair of scrappy socks, so I did a better job of using up this second round. I have little blobs left of each. On the first pair I still have a good (but useless) amount of Blue left.

Since the first pair showed me I would have to go the ruffled anklet route, I was able to work this pair cuff down starting with the ruffle, garter edge heel stitch flap, and my usual toe decreases.

I used a set of US2 dpns and a 24" US2 Addi Turbo, since I was working them at the same time.

Happy Toes
I'm more pleased with these socks than I am with the first Scrappy Socks.Scrappy 2 shoe

I think it's the cuff down construction. I like the traditional progression as you make them. And I think I just like the fit of a cuff down sock better.

The first pair of socks suck down into my shoes in the back a little. Or at least they feel like they are sucking down. I blame the short row heel. I hear it is more shallow than a flap heel. I suppose I could have made the leg longer on the first pair, I had enough yarn, but this pair should be the same length and feels fine.

Actually, this pair might be five rounds longer...I don't remember. I didn't write anything down. I was working them simultaneously so I didn't have to.

Well, I'm not reworking the first pair, so I'll just have to live with it.

I'm not sure how much it plays into my satisfaction, but these socks strike me as much flashier than the red and blue pair. snicker. Actually, they make me think of clown socks. snicker.

Anyway. Moving on. I'm going to try to focus on the Tartan Argyles now. Three weeks to make a pair of socks is just ridiculous. I was so much more productive when I was practicing project monogamy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: The Knitted Odd-bod Bunch

Odd-bod cover Odd indeed!

If you are looking for a simple, unique critter to knit The Knitted Odd-Bod Bunch by Donna Wilson (128 pages, 200 color photographs, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-906525-42-2) is your book.

There are cats, dogs, owls, and....critters. These are not the anatomically correct teddy bears that have been filling knitting books lately.

Um, that didn't come out just right. Let me try again.

These stuffed animals don't have true to life forms. They are more along the lines of a child's drawing in 3-D, complete with in-line legs and rounded edges.

In fact, in the introduction Wilson says she was inspired by children's drawings.

I poked around online, and it turns out she has a line of interior furnishings. You can see some of the animals in the book in the designs on her items. (I like the cloud pillows. Which aren't in this book. There is, however, a doughnut in the book that looks rather delicious. )

The patterns all look approachable, with simple shaping, so they might be good for both beginner knitters and first toy projects. At the same time, there are a few with fair isle bands, one with cables, and another with beads if you want something a little more challenging.
Cat from Odd bunch
"Mitten Kitten" here is one of the fair isle ones. You can also see the in-line leg shaping I was talking about.

Another thing I like is there are a range of gauges from fingering through worsted. I have to imagine most of them are on the small side, so they will probably work up quickly.

People on Ravelry have made 15 of the projects in the book. There are comments about using up stash to make some of them. That makes total sense since the quirky nature of the patterns lends themselves to unusual colorings as well.

It's a cute little book to have around. Especially if your kids are open minded about how stuffed animals should look.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gaming My Own System

On your toes I just haven't been feeling the blogging mojo lately.

If you've been keeping track, we were indeed at the end of an issue cycle at work, which usually throws my blogging off track. Can't blog during lunch when you aren't really taking lunch!

Also, I became suddenly disenchanted with all three of my current projects. Oh, I was still knitting on them listlessly, but it was just plain knitting. Nothing exciting to blog about there.

I feel especially bad for the Tartan Argyle Socks. That whole Moccasin sock technique experiment really through them for a loop. I haven't worked on them much since. And I've been wanting to make them for so long.

Looks like I need to get some project focus going on. Three WIPs must be too distracting.

What New Yarn?
In the mean time. Yes, that is a new ball of yarn. No, I haven't fallen off my yarn diet.

Remember when I made that sweater for my cousin's baby?

And I had bought four skeins of yarn, but only used three?

Well, The Store's policy is store credit on unused yarn within 45 days. That was incentive to knit faster.

I was able to exchange the fourth ball for this ball of On Your Toes sock yarn. Well, I did have to chip in a few dollars for the price difference, but not enough to notice.

It's White
I know when I introduced the idea of the Polka Dot Socks I said I really wanted a white base, but buying new white yarn would be silly and impractical.

I was going to be noble and use either the green or blue yarn I already owned as a base.

Well, I really wasn't thrilled with that idea. I wanted a white base!

So this was the perfect opportunity to get around my own rules and still have my way.

Of course, I have to finish the Tartan Socks before I can run off starting the Polka Dot socks.

Guess I better get knitting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting Closer

Remember when I told you that my Rainbow Swirl Socks had been accepted for a book of sock club socks being edited by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrot?

Well, yesterday Beth sent the contributors an e-mail with a link to the pre-order page on Amazon!

It's so cool.

As you can see, the book title is Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure. And the publication date is January 2010.

I was looking at the pictures on Amazon and it looks like there are going to be some pretty cool socks in here. Other than mine, of course. And, as a contributor, I get a free copy.

Of course, pre-ordering the book would ensure you receive it in a timely manner. But don't forget the advantages of picking up a copy at your Local Yarn Store, where you will also be able to get the yarn you need to make the patterns, and help when you get stuck.

And supporting your locally owned bookstore is always a good idea, too. Even if they don't sell yarn.

Other Projects
Just to remind you how cool (and modest, or is it humble?) I am here is a refresher on my other empire building activities.

The Eyelet and Feather Socks there in the sidebar are going to be in the new One-Skein Wonders book from Storey Publishing. This time the theme is garments made from sock yarn. You'll remember my Top-Down Alpaca Mitts are in the last OSW book, which had a luxury yarn theme.

I'll probably have to stop selling the pattern individually soon, but I haven't been told when. I don't know when the publication date is. By the way, Storey's blog is kind of fun.

The Heart Harf is still at Aslan Trends being judged for their Knitter's Challenge 2009. Really, they should save themselves the trouble and just name me the first place winner already. Then they just have to worry about selecting second and third place winner. Because, of course, I'm going to win first place. They won't make the official announcement until Nov. 11.

That's about it. I have some other patterns I really need to write up already. And I haven't made much progress on my current projects.

Ok, lunch time is over. Back to the grind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Yarn Diets Suck

No pictures today.

I've only been blogging for two years. You would think I'd remember to grab my camera if I know a potentially blog worthy event was taking place.

Or maybe you know me well enough by now that you wouldn't think that.


Trish from Tanglewood Fiber Creations was at Knitting Central this weekend.

I was working Sunday. The fact that I was working is probably why I didn't make the leap to bringing the camera.

Trish produces lovely hand dyed, hand spun yarn in eye popping colors. Her fibers are cashmere, cashmere/silk, cashmere/silk/angora, baby camel/silk, and yak/silk. Am I missing any? Well, you get the idea. And they all come with or without beads.

Really, it's enough to make a girl wonder how necessary it really is to pay the mortgage each month. Or maybe pay the mortgage but forgo food. Somehow I don't think Hubby would be on board with either plan. (Or would counter with a similar plan but involving wine.)

Fortunately, since this is only the second time Trish has visited the store, we were crazy busy and I was unable to engage with the yarn in the manner necessary to begin coveting a skein for myself.


Temptation Abounds
That doesn't mean I didn't see things I liked.

In fact, the biggest problem was that as soon as Trish saw me, she cornered me, and made me wear this absolutely adorable little cardigan out of her beaded baby camel/silk.

The sweater was designed by Melissa Leapman. It had horseshoe lace at the bottom with a st st yolk. As far as I know it was just a gift with purchase.

It looked adorable on me, if I do say so myself.

Then a little while later Trish remembered there is a matching hat. She plunked that on my head. It also looked adorable. In fact it was so adorable I liberated one of the patterns. Because I'm wicked and membership has its privileges (and she said it was ok).

I would like to point out that after a week of blustery, autumnal weather the weekend was sunny and 78 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course).

Now, I was appointed to wear this ensemble because I don't tend to overheat during the day like some of the other staff members do. And, happily, the air conditioners were cranked up, so I actually appreciated the sweater for most of the day.

But then around 3 pm I felt myself starting to space out. I took this as I sign I was finally starting to get warm. I reluctantly shed my camel layers. Ah, but it was fun for a time.

If you do want to see pretty pictures of the trunk show Major Knitter has some. She's working on some pretty socks using yarn and a pattern from Tanglewood.

I'll be stalking P's blog. She did think to bring her camera. She got a picture of the staff with Trish and me decked out in my camel finery. (Gee, I'm short.) I have to imagine she'll be posting about it soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blog Anniversary?

Samson I see by my archives there that my first blog post was on Sept 13.

I didn't start blogging consistently until a few months later, but trying to select one of those date as my blog anniversary seems silly. Much easier to go with the incept date.

I haven't ever pointed out this date in the past, mainly because I don't usually remember it. I thought of it for some reason this year. That made me remember there was a puppy story that prompted me to start the blog, which I never shared with the blog. I just make reference to it in that second post on the first day.

So here goes.

For some reason a bunch of us were eating lunch together in the conference room and I was regaling them with a tale of the puppies recent destructive capabilities. Everyone was laughing. Someone said, "You should have a blog." When I got back to my desk, I started this one.

The Story That Started the Blog
We bought our house in 2005, but it took us two years to finally buy a home improvement guide book.

This was a long process. We spent quite a bit of time in the book store flipping through the offerings, comparing photos and text.

We finally decided on a $35 one from Reader's Digest. We thought it had the best pictures. It's a fairly large book.

We brought our treasure home and put it on the sofa table.

It sat on the sofa table, unharmed, for days. I mean days, maybe even a week.

Baru drinking Then one day, Hubby called me after school to report that the puppies had destroyed the book.

The thing must weight five or 10 pounds. I would weight it for you, but it's in the basement.

Samson took it off the sofa table, transported it across to the house to the green room (where all destruction takes place), and went to town on it.

Most of it was scattered around the green room, but parts of the cover had been transported to the bedroom as well.

It was incredible. You have to admire that kind of determination. The worst part was, most of the interior pages were unharmed, but the book was still too destroyed to keep.

This was not the first book they ate, and it wouldn't be the last, but I think it was one of the more expensive ones.

Well, aside from Hubby's school textbook they ate last year. At least we didn't have to pay for that replacement.

I Waited for That?
Ok, well, hmm, that story is much funnier in person. I can be very animated. It probably would have been funnier closer to the actual incident, when I remembered more of the details.

You'll have to trust me on this, my co-workers were howling.

It is also a reminder that despite how cute and charming they are, you shouldn't trust my dogs as far as you can throw them!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tartan Socks: In the Name of Knowledge

mock sole Although I had decided that I really did want to frog the moccasin sole and go with a traditional construction, I forged ahead for a few more rows.

It was one of those situations where I had come so far and to turn back with so many unanswered questions seemed wrong.

What if some poor sole, I mean, soul working EZ's pattern ends up on my blog with these same questions? Fat lot of help I would be to them.

I knit around 5 more rounds last night. I have decided: it has got to go.

Happy Toes
As suspected, the extra fabric, combined with the distance from the needles, did indeed improve the fit around my toes. It's doable, but still not perfect.

Looking for Closure
Also, as you can see in the picture, I was able to divide the stitches evenly on two needles. This means I could probably kitchener the bottom shut without using the drawstring method at any point.

Cut Me Some Slack
My new complaint is probably more to do with the shape of my foot and less to do with the poor technique.

You see, my heel is narrower than the ball of my foot. When I saw this last night I identified it as one of those things I probably always knew just never thought about.

What this means for the poor sock is at this point the section by my heel can be pulled together and closed comfortably. However, the section at the toes still needs more fabric. Oh, I can stretch what is there and pull the sides together, but it is definitely stretched.

And that makes me wonder how it will stand up to wear and tear if the fabric is already strained.

If I work more rounds to accommodate the ball of the foot section, then there will be too much fabric at the heel. Of course, my little brain started pondering whether some form of short rows would help. Stop working the area at the heel and just up the sides, but still work the rest of the sides and toe area.

I squashed that idea right quick. It's a sock, it shouldn't be this difficult.

As it is (I don't know if you can tell in the picture), there is already slack at the heel and I'm wondering if it will bunch up when I kitchener it. I don't know about you, but I always get those corner peaks at either end when I kitchener a toe shut. That won't be fun at the bottom of my foot.

And have I mentioned that I'm not terribly happy with my original decision to go with a black sole? I think it's too much of a contrast. I suppose that is part of the fun of this construction, but it's a bit too stark for my taste.

Down It Goes
There you have it. I think I have beaten this technique to death (as opposed to beating it into submission). And I think I've laid out a compelling argument justifying frogging it. Which I shall probably do tonight.

Of course, don't rely on me alone. Things might turn out differently for you. Plenty of other people have used this technique and seem happy with it.

Maybe they just aren't as fussy as me. sniff.

3%? That's All?

This is from a website called Travel Buddy. Looks like there is a link embedded in it.
Hmm, nobody better try to take my self-proclaimed "traveling" title away.
I've got the US covered. That has to count for something.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stella: Second Sleeve Slip-ups

Stella sleeve closeThe Tartan Socks continue to languish. I'm really leaning toward frogging them and following a traditional argyle construction. Although maybe I should soldier on for the good of the wider knitting community.

There is that rule of thumb: As long as we're knitting, we're happy.

Pair of Sleeves
This is all good news for the Stella sweater.

I finished the second sleeve last night. Mercifully, it looks like the first one, which was in some doubt for a while there.

First I had trouble transitioning from the pleats to the smocking.

You decrease a number of stitches as you work the smocking set up row. Well, I hadn't worked all my decreases and ran out of stitches.

I thought I had front loaded them too much, so pulled it out and started again. No dice.

The first sleeve was not so tricky. I examined it, counted spacing, and even put safety pins on the decreases to they would be easier to see/count as I worked the second sleeve.

Still didn't work.

Finally I had the brilliant idea of counting the number of stitches with which I was starting.

Yep, not enough.

I told Hubby I didn't know what we were watching when I worked that last row, but I messed up big time. I worked all the pattern decreases without the paired increases. sigh.

So I had to pull out 3/4 of that row and rework it. Obviously, the set up/decrease row worked fine after that.

Cap It
The smocking and most of the main sleeve section went fine until I reached the last set of decreases in the shaping.

You decrease every other row X number of times. My plan was to advance my row counter only on the right side/decrease rows. Turns out I started automatically advancing after every row. I arrived at what should have been the last decrease row, according to the counter, but I had waaay to many stitches.

I had to sit there, reading my knitting, counting decreases and making sure both sides were even. sheesh. At least I didn't have to pull anything out.

But then the penultimate direction was to decrease 2 sts at the BEG of the next two rows. I however decreased 2 sts at BOTH ends of the next two rows. And couldn't figure out why I was waaaay short on stitches. I figured that gaff out much more quickly.

You can see why I'm happy the sleeves match!

As soon as I finished the sleeve I cast on for the back. I was able to knit two rows before bedtime. I'm really surprised/excited at how quickly this top is moving along. I just have to stay focused.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tartan Socks: Mocked by Moccasins

Tartan sock off black I have a feeling my experiment with Elizabeth Zimmerman's Moccasin Sock technique is about to come to an abrupt and messy end.

I suspect I'm not going to like the fit of the finished socks, which is a major de-motivator for proceeding.

However, it is a cunning construction. It looks all goofy on the needles, but magically transforms into a sock on the foot. It will eliminate the need to sew the side of the foot shut, which is a plus. I'm also surprised at how well the heel fits, even thought it doesn't have a normal turn.

The problem is I'm not sure how much of my discomfort stems from the construction of the sock, and how much is because I'm trying it on while it's still on the needles.

I'm closing in on the bottom of the foot, where the sole will be grafted shut. I can't decide if I should finish it and get a true fit, or if I should cut my losses now. I was smart and did not cut the red and yellow yarn after working the toe. Of course, if I was to back track, I would have to pull back all of the heel/gusset/instep shaping, which would take me back to the center of the last black diamond at the ankle.

Wiggle Room, or Lack Thereof
The main problem is in the toe.

Remember a few posts ago when I was worried the Tartan Sock was longer in the foot than the Pirate Arrgyles? Well, totally misplaced fear. Turns out the Tartans are three rows shorter, and I'm feeling their loss.

The toe pocket is very close. It is hard to flare my toes. And the foot seems short in general. It makes my toes curl under. But at the same time the fabric on top of the foot looks baggy.

You can see how much of the sole I've worked. I'm through both sets of toe decreases and theTartan Sock on black one set of heel decreases.

At first I thought I should pull it out and work the red toe decrease section over more rows to give myself more room. Then I realized the top of the foot looked baggy, so that didn't seem the proper fix.

I don't know if I should work more rows between the decreases on the theory the slack will stretch up the sides to my toes were I need it. Or if I DO need to make the foot longer. She says when you pick up for the sole you should have double the number of stitches you cast on, and I didn't.

Under Foot
Then I'm also worried about the feeling of the finished sole under my foot.

You graft the very bottom shut. This shouldn't be an issue. Grafting/kitchener stitch is seemless.

But it also sounds like you do that draw-string bag closure thing under the toe and heel. How much of a lump is that going to make? Am I going to feel it when I walk?

I once crocheted a pair of slippers with a sole that started with a chain that you worked around, increasing on either end. I felt the lump under my heel. It was pretty uncomfortable. Granted, that was with worsted weight 100% acrylic yarn and these socks are fingering weight wool. But still.

This all means the Tartan Socks are stymied at the point you currently see them. They've been in that condition for a few days now while I dither.

On the bright side, I've turned the heel on the Second Scrappy Socks and I've almost finished Stella's Second sleeve.

I guess there is something to be said for having multiple projects on the go!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trip to France Day 6: Lyon-Nancy II

Hotel Guise staircase 1 Day 6, Part 2
When last we left our intrepid vacationers they had eaten a questionable lunch, but scored some yummy wine, in the village of Pommard. Then they continued their mission of reviving the French economy through the payment of highway tolls on their way to Nancy.

The trip (and traffic) into Nancy was mercifully uneventful. But Hubby absolutely deflated when he saw it was another city. On the approach, all you can see are high rise buildings. It isn’t terribly attractive. Once we got into the city, and the area around our hotel, the view was more attractive.

Hubby was upset because it wasn’t a charming little town or village. In fact, the only little town we managed to stay in was Pauillac. That was also the only B&B we stayed in, so I don’t know how much the fact we were staying mostly in hotels factored into us being mostly in cities.

I assured him it was going to be fine and that he did the best he could from thousands of miles away. I checked the Fodor’s. By that point in the trip I had finally realized Fodor’s puts a happy shine on almost everything.

I mean, really, do the towns pay to be included? Are the editors just afraid of offending anyone?

I started reading between the lines. If it described a place as being “vibrant with lots of energy,” I interpreted that as being a large city with bad traffic. The description of Nancy went on and on about the fabulous architecture and the mix of time periods and styles. No real warning that it was a big city. However, in a separate paragraph discussing the overall region, there is a passing mention that Nancy is the largest city in the area. Large in comparison to what? I mean, a large city in Vermont is much different than a large city in New York. Population counts would have been helpful. For instance, Wikipedia says over 100,000 people live in the city proper.

Psst, Nice Steps
We found our hotel with relative ease. They didn't have parking, so hubby had to dump me on the curb and drive a few blocks away to a public lot.

We were staying in the Hotel de Guise , which is a converted nobleman's mansion. The front foyer was all old marble, with sweeping curving staircases. There were big windows looking onto a closed courtyard.

And there was no elevator. Well, the hotels had been getting more affordable the deeper we got into the vacation, so it was bound to happen. We got some exercise dragging our luggage up to the third floor. There wasn't air conditioning either, but there was a desk fan in the room that was pretty helpful.

Stanislaw PalacePsst, Nice Building
We were walking distance of the Place Stanislas, so we headed in that direction to get the gawking out of the way.

The area was set up with an elaborate building at one end, then a long, long plaza, that ended at a wee Arch de Triumphe, which was the entrance to the massive courtyard in front of the palace. A museum, an opera house, and another fancy building made up the other sides of the courtyard. Two of the corners had very large, elaborate fountains in them. The entire center was pedestrianized. There were a few restaurants and shops as well.

We went questing for an ATM, hoping for a BNP so we wouldn't have to pay fees. There was an awkward moment when a young woman with a backpack and a dog said something to me in French. I said, "Pardon?" So she repeated it. I could tell she was saying something about money and thought maybe she was trying to tell me something about a bank location. I called Hubby over and she repeated what she said for like the fourth time. Turns out she was begging. Oops. Well, we didn't have any cash, so she was wasting her breath.

Mmm, Pasta

On our way to the palace we had passed through the Rue et Place St Epvre, which had both a nice cathedral and a number of cafes. Since it was on the way back to the hotel, we headed in that direction in search of food.

Once nice thing about all the outdoor seating in France is that you can totally spy on what people are eating, which can help you make up your mind.

We ended up deciding on a place called Plazza Pasta, because it smelled good when we walked. We figured out which restaurant it was by matching the large, oddly shaped white bowls people eating had to what we could see inside. It was like a fast food, take-out Italian place. Really, you ordered a drink, pasta shape, and sauce all for one affordable price.

Yeah, I know, right? We're in France and we're eating quick cook pasta. I think we were both ready for something a little less elaborate for once.

It was really good. Sure, it wasn't the best Italian food I've ever eaten, but it hit the spot. Hubby got spaghetti with bolognase (bolognese?). I got spirals with carbonara. Little rolls rounded out the meal. Of course, coffee and chamomile tea finished it off.

I didn't sleep very well that night. We had two beds in the room. I think they must have been double/full size. They looked big enough, but I felt really crowded. Heaven forbid I switch to the other bed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Casting On: Stella Blouse

Stella SleeveI have spent most of the summer knitting socks and practicing project monogamy.

This has led to me actually completing projects in a timely manner.

I don't know which aspect of my current knitting habits I'm tired of, but I suddenly had the need to start working on a sweater again.

There are, of course, many projects I want to start. But starting them all at once is counter productive. There are two I've been both wanting to make for a while, and have all the materials for.

One is the Stella's Blouse top from the Spring 04 issue of Interweave Knits. When I first saw the pattern all those years ago, I knew I was going to make it, but I thought it was over my skill level with the pleats and smocking and all. I bought the magazine, and apparently one set of circular needles, but no yarn. Didn't want to get to far ahead of myself.

It has lurked in the back of my mind since then. It was never forgotten, just on the back burner. In fact, this pattern was the inspiration for putting smocking on my Top Down Alpaca Mitts.

Last year or so I bought some Rowan Cotton Glace (the yarn specified in the pattern) in light blue.

The next hurdle was the smallest size was a 34 inch bust and I'm a 31 inch. That is three inches of ease, which seemed a little excessive. Happily, I was able to track the designer down on Ravelry and tell her my predicament. I said I was intending to ditch 10 sts, 5 each front and back, right after the smocking was done.

She said that was a good plan. Then explained how it would affect the stitch count further up the sweater.

I was all set to make it, I just needed the time.

Second Choice
stars & stripes done
The other sweater I was considering was Iris, a shrug from Rowan 35.

It looks pretty easy-peasy and functional. I have five balls of Rowan Calmer (the yarn specified) in denim blue. They are leftover from the bag I bought when I made my Superhero Sweater (seen here). The only thing stopping me from making it was time.

On Saturday, I pulled out all the implements of destruction needed to start one of them. I sat on the couch pouring over the pictures and patterns trying to decide.

Hubby asked what was going on. I explained and held up the two pictures for him to see.

He voted for Stella. He said it was my style top. So the decision was made. (Although I do wonder if he realized both are going to get made eventually.)

A Sleeve is Born
I was very excited to get gauge with the US4 called for in the pattern.

Usually I like to knit both sleeves at the same time. I'm not this time. Despite having a 32 inch circular, I didn't think both sleeves would fit on it comfortable.

Working them singularly is probably just as well, since it took me three tries to get the first two rows right.

Yeah, I know!

It was all because I didn't realize that the "set up row" was a wrong side row.
Stella sleeve close
I kept starting row 2 and couldn't figure out why the pattern wasn't working out. The purl stitches weren't stacking up. I must have picked it out three times. Even after I figured out it was a wrong side row, I still couldn't get the pattern to work. I even debated whether there was a mistake in the pattern because I figured out how to force it to work if I changed the order I worked the stitches.

I finally gave up and went to bed. Of course, as always happens, I was laying there trying to fall asleep and the light bulb finally went on.

Row 1 is a wrong side row. I have to read the chart from left to right. NOT right to left, as I was doing. Of course it wasn't working.

I guess I've just been knitting so many socks, worked in the round so the charts always read from the right, that I forgot flat charts switch sides.

Well, I didn't hop out of bed to go knit. But things went much more smoothly the next time I sat down with it!

I'm just about done the cap shaping. It's very exciting how quickly it's whipping along. I guess when you go from 7 sts/inch on US1 or US2 to 5 sts/inch on US4 it is going to seem like fast.

The yarn is nice. It's a little slippery on the Addi Turbos. I do wonder it part of that is I've been working with either wool or cotton on wood needles for the past few months. But other than that, things are fine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tartan Socks: I Got Sole

Tartan Sock heel shaping This picture is actually a lie.

After I finished working the heel shaping I realized I hadn't picked up an even number of stitches along both sides of the instep. The sock was crooked. I had to frog it and start over.

I think the crookedness is even apparent in this picture. I had more stitches on the left than I did on the right (as they appear in the picture).

I did not struggle with this decision for as long as you might imagine. I looked at for a minute or two and thought, "Yep. It's got to go."

I know Elizabeth Zimmerman says right there in the text for the Moccasin Socks that knitting isn't an exact science, but I couldn't take the chance that it would actually even out.

I thought it would be better to rip it out now, while it is still small, than to finish the entire sock and be like "Oh, that sucks."

The socks is, however, already back to this condition. Only it is all freshly picked up and evenly balanced.

And a ToeTartan Sock toe shaping
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before I was able to pick up the sole stitches I had to finish the instep and toe. Which you see to the right.

I don't know how well you can make out the toe shaping. I see the sock curled on me a bit when I was taking it. You can see the one decrease line. EZ has you decrease at two points on either side of the center. I get the impression the stitches on the sides will curl under to the bottom of the foot.

When I was done that knitting, I held this sock up to a Pirate Arrgyle Sock (as you remember, I'm using them as a guide), and the Tartan Sock seemed longer.

I had a moment of panic, since the gauge and row count were the same. If Hubby noticed me sitting on the couch attempting to wrap a bit of knit fabric around my foot, he didn't comment. Well, once I go the stitches that will grow into the heel lined up, and stretched the instep around my foot, it did all seem to suck up into place. I'm going to solider forth in faith that it will work out in the end.

To the Sole
Then it was a matter of flipping the sock over and picking up for the sole. You go down one side, knit the stitches that will be the heel foundation, up the other side, and knit the live toe stitches.

Then you start your new round, knitting down the side to the heel. At which point you stop and work the heel. It sort of reminds me of a Cuban Heel to a degree, because it is triangular. It is the little black bit nestled into the last red diamond there in the top picture. I suppose maybe I should have done that bit in red, but oh well and why over complicate things?

I'm actually working with six double points. As you can see, I'm using my 7" clovers for this. Not a lot of flexibility there. I ended up getting out a 5" Brittany Birch when I was working the heel. Much easier to have them confined to their own needle, rather than trying to flex them over the long needles which had the side stitches, or rearranging everything.

When I decided to start the heel over, I actually used my 24" US1 Addi Turbo to pick up and knit down the first side. I thought I'd be able to get all the way around, but the needle part was too long and it got awkward after the heel. I ended up doing the second side on a DPN. Then I as I knit the first round I transferred all the stitches back to DPNs from the Addi.

Of course, EZ says to work the sole on a 16" circ. I don't own one. I don't usually have any trouble doing my small circumference knitting on DPNs. But I can kind of see her point in this case.

The sock did not get any attention last night.

I have three projects on the go at the moment. The Tartan Socks, the Stella Top (of which you have not heard), and a new pair of Scrappy Socks.

I've decided the best bet is to rotate them so they all get attention. Last night was Stella's turn. I'll be back to the Tartans tonight. The Scrappy Socks...well, the Scrappy Socks just have to suck it up and wait their turn.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Review: Debbie Bliss Baby and Toddler Knits

DB Baby cover I have been totally slacking on the book reviews I'm supposed to be doing for CICO Books.

Bad Blogger!

So let's get back to it

Today we have Debbie Bliss Baby and Toddler Knits. (96 pages, 100 color photographs, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-906525-37-8)

If you don't know who Debbie Bliss is, you either haven't been knitting for very long, or you've been knitting in complete isolation.

She is a prolific British designer with her own yarn line; many, many books, pamphlets, and patterns to her name; and last year she even started a magazine.

Really, the woman must not sleep.

Which is good for people who like her patterns as she designs really cute stuff.

This book is a case in point. It has patterns ranging from a scarf with a Fair Isle design, to a cute little pleated dress, and a sweater with an interesting shawl collar. There are also booties, blankets, and some hats as well. Knitters of all skill levels should be able to find a pattern they can execute, as they range from a simple garter stitch cardigan to aran sweaters and many in between.

DB baby sweater I am rather enamored of this little double breasted number. The pattern is called "Baby Reefer Jacket and Hat."
(I see now that there is actually a better picture in the book I could have used. Oh well, you get the idea.)

One thing I like about this book is that while a number of the patterns call for her Baby Cashmerino yarn, which works at around 6.5 sts/inch, several of them call for DK weight yarn and have gauges of 5 or 5.5 sts/inch.
Meaning you might actually get the project done while the baby is still small!

It's a good book to have on hand. Especially if you have younger relatives who keep reproducing.