Sunday, November 9, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Pointelle 01

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

In her book Knit. Sock. Love. designer Cookie A. organizes her patterns into three categories - columns, tessellations and diagonals. The column patterns are created by repeating one element over and over again in a vertical column; like the vertical columns of cables in BFF or Marilinda, or the vertical repeats of eyelet patterns in Hedera or Mona. The tessellation patterns are arrangements of one or more shapes in a geometric pattern; think Monkey, Rhombus and even Gothic Spire.  And last but not least are diagonals where the patterns travel back and forth, or around or even off in one direction. Perhaps because travelling stitch patterns often involve very intense charts, I hadn't attempted one of these patterns yet.

But it's time to put that right by casting on Pointelle.  Too bad I left my first sock in my desk drawer at work; I've just got this one old photo that shows very little progress. There'll be a lot more to see next week!

Just because I don't have my sock knitting, it doesn't mean I've been entirely idle though. A few weeks ago I dug out several hundred grams of a rustic wool that I bought for pennies on the dollar at auction. Months ago I made a sweater from it, but it was much too scratchy, and after repeat soaks to remove the mothball smell it felted. A couple of weeks ago I made a couple of pairs of Duffers from it. It's perfect for this pattern, but there's a lot more yarn than I could ever use up making slippers.

But then the cat laid claim to the yarn. While I worked on my slippers she was endlessly trying to lay on them or cuddle with them. When I'm at work she pulls the yarn from my knitting bag and sleeps with her face buried in the yarn cake. So I'm giving in to her insistence and crocheting a cat bed for her. The bottom - three flat circles - is complete. Next I need to crochet sides, then assemble it all together and felt it. So far the cat approves. In fact, she seems a bit glued to the WIP. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she spends the entire day there, not budging. She hasn't moved an inch in the last couple of hours, except to lay her head down and snooze face down into the wool.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Socktopus finished!

SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

Finally done! Not just the Farmer McGregor socks, but the entire Socktopus book. And yes, I did finish before the final deadline for the Socktopus KAL by about 28 hours. I updated my little GIF so you can see every pair of socks in this book.

Now, what to say about this book? Would I recommend it? Well maybe, with some qualifications.

Almost every pattern will knit up too large unless you are a crazy tight knitter. In almost every instance I went down a pattern size and down at least one needle size ... and I have BIG feet.

A couple of the patterns I would definitely NOT recommend. Om Shanti for instance is not very stretchy, and is designed with a shallow heel flap and an inflexible cuff. If you can tug them over your heels, then they might fit okay, but I can't imagine they'd be comfortable in shoes. Caretta Caretta has beads throughout - I skipped the beads on the instep, and probably should have skipped them altogether. Spring Shoots are one of those designs that seems to be all about unusual construction at the expense of comfort and fit .... and another inflexible, non-stretchy cuff.

Kwalla - with its bulky cables  - fits much better if you modify the pattern to drastically decrease when transitioning from cables to stockinette. It's the sock shown on the book cover, and look, it doesn't fit the model either!

On the other hand, though, there are some real winners in the book too. Shur'tugal, Mince Pie Mayhem, Hundred Acre Wood, Vorticity and Farmer McGregor are all pretty awesome as far as I'm concerned. And if you knit every pattern, you'll likely encounter some new cast-ons and heel constructions so that's kinda fun.

If you have the book, or are considering buying it, you should also be aware that there are numerous errata. Check Ravelry notes before starting any of them. You will also discover that the lines demarcating the repeats on the charts are very faint - I needed good light and reading glasses to see them. As well, don't be thrown off by the row and stitch numbering on the charts - it doesn't line up. And personally, I think they should have the socks made to fit the feet they photographed them on. It is a book of sock patterns, after all!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Farmer McGregor 02

SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

Four weeks later and I'm not much further ahead with the second Farmer McGregor sock. I did cast on sock two, and I did knit all the way to the top of the heel flap, and it was then that I realized I'd made the second sock at a larger size. Seriously?! There was no chance I'd have enough yarn for that.

It took a few days for me to build up the courage to rip out the entire leg of sock two and start again at the correct size. After re-knitting the cuff and the first few pattern rounds, sock two languished for weeks. As well as a ridiculously busy spell at work, my remaining waking hours have been spent getting the softcover version of my brother's novella "A McAdam Station Christmas" printed and delivered, not to mention designing, typesetting, formatting and finalizing a hardcover book "McAdam Railway Station and Hotel: Fact, Fiction & Photographs" for printing release and sale before Christmas. Car trouble, a flu bug and roofers have only added to the craziness.

Happily, the softcover book was delivered in New Brunswick last week - just days ahead of the pre-launch and launch events. And I uploaded final files for the hardcover book to the printer at the end of last week. Early this week I'll have eProofs to review and then hopefully we can get the books printed and delivered by the end of November. Fingers crossed that sales are strong and lots of money is raised for the restoration of this amazing landmark!

Car trouble meant commuting back and forth to work on transit - the perfect opportunity for some mindless knitting. For the Seasonal Sock Syndrome KAL hosted by Revelations of a Delusional Knitter, I settled on a pattern called "October Leaves". It's a simple toe-up ribbed sock with a colourwork band at the top of the leg. A ribbed sock was about all my exploding head could manage. As written there was also a colourwork section to begin the foot, which I skipped, and the colourwork was meant to be four colours not three, but I shortcut that too. The socks turned out beautifully, and are super comfortable, so that's another thing on my to-do list accomplished.

Oh, and the car? I had shut off the engine in the line-up at the Costco Gas Bar, but when the line ahead of me started to move, the car wouldn't start. You can just imagine how patient the drivers in line behind me were!! The lot boys helped to push the car to the parking lot. It was Sunday morning of a holiday weekend, so there was no chance of finding a dealership or auto mechanic to look at the car. My step-son-in-law and my step-daughter tried jump starting the car, but determined that it wasn't the battery, but probably the alternator, or more likely the starter motor. It's a standard transmission so we push-started the car so that I could drive home. We push-started it once more so that Gavin could take it up to the garage on the following Tuesday, and left it with the mechanics for most of the day. By late afternoon they found a frayed ground wire that was causing the trouble. Not a mechanical problem at all! Isn't that the thing with all the electronics in today's cars? Always something to go wrong! Oh well, that was the cheapest thing, so I'll count myself lucky.

Here's hoping that things are back on track now! With luck - and providing the rain holds off - the roofers should finish our row of townhouses next week. Gavin works nights, so he's quite sleep deprived with all the hammering and banging through the day. I'd better run to do some grocery shopping and some laundry. It's my BIL's birthday this week, so we're hoping to catch up with him later today for a bit of a celebration. One way or another I'd better find time to finish these Farmer McGregor socks! The KAL ends on Friday - this is the last pattern of the entire book, and I'd hate to blow it now!





Sunday, September 28, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Farmer McGregor 01



SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

... or camouflage socks as they've come to be known. Seriously! These socks are almost invisible in the grass of my backyard!

The pattern is Farmer McGregor and it's the last pattern of the Socktopus KAL. Nice to go out on a high note - this pattern is gorgeous! With all those twisted stitches I worried that the knitting might be painful, but it moves along at a nice pace. I'd be further along, except I borrowed the 2.25mm needles for some secret Christmas knitting. By this aft, those needles should be free for me to cast on sock two.

All that crisscrossing creates a fabric that's somewhat thick and inflexible so you need to cast on more stitches than you might think. For patterns like this with unusually high stitch counts, I add a decrease row at the top of the heel flap and another to finish the instep to take up the slack and transition smoothly into a fitted heel and toe. Works like a charm.

That high stitch count also means I have to pay attention to yardage so I don't run out. Yep, yarn chicken again! Not to worry though; sock one weighs in at 51 grams, leaving me with 54 grams for sock two. The yarn is a "Frog Prince" colourway on a based called "Twisted House Cat" from Wandering Cat Yarn. The extra twist of this sock yarn makes it lovely to work with and the stitch definition is fantastic. And, as you can see, this colourway is also fantastic.

I've got an out of town guest coming later this week so I'd better get moving to get the spare room ready. And I've signed up for the "Seasonal Sock Syndrome KAL" over at Revelations of a Delusional Knitter so I need to think about what socks and what yarn for fall. So far we're having THE most gorgeous fall weather ever, so I'm a huge fan of autumn at the moment. I think my inspiration may come from that old April Wine song: "Red and yellow, seasons changing gear ..."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Om Shanti

SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor • Om Shanti

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

Last week I started (and finished) Om Shanti socks. Truth be told, I'd been avoiding this pattern. The KAL for this pattern ends in September so it was decision time: knit them to complete the KAL? or skip them and disqualify myself from the "Hall of Fame" for completing all the Socktopus patterns? Of course I knit them.

Sometimes when I knit a pattern that doesn't appeal to me, the pattern surprises me. I might learn a new technique that I like, or I might like the pattern better than I thought I would; you just never know. In this case I did pick up a tip about how to modify a short row w&t garter stitch heel for a higher instep, so I'm pleased about that. But I still don't like these socks.

I had planned to knit these from MCN, however these socks are knit on 2.5-2.75mm needles so I switched to a sport weight yarn. It's always best to knit socks at tight gauge; they're more comfortable and more durable that way.

So what don't I like about these socks? Well, first of all they're thick and entirely unsuitable for wearing in shoes. The designer specifically calls these "bed socks" so that was not a surprise, but I have no use for bed socks. My feet poke outside the covers at night to cool off. As well they're ankle socks, which aren't my thing. I wear socks to keep my feet warm; I don't want wintery winds whistling up my pant legs around my ankles. And then there's the cuff with its horizontal Kihnu Vits braid and corrugated ribbing. Interesting design choices - neither of these elements has any stretch. Don't you want your sock cuff stretchy? Must I struggle to them pull on and off over my heels?

Nope, these socks are done, photographed and will be promptly frogged. And the best remedy for sock pattern disappointment is to cast on a different pair. So that's exactly what I did; I've cast on Farmer McGregor socks. What a difference! Loving these! And look, it's the last pair from Socktopus!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Year of Projects 4: Marilinda 02

SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor • Om Shanti

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

As I knit the first few inches of these Marilinda socks in Dye-Version stretch bamboo sock yarn I was worried that the yarn was too busy for the pattern. Unless I'm knitting in a solid colour, I almost always think that. I guess it's all about the pattern for me with sock knitting - that's why I typically buy tonal yarns. The only thing to do is to knit a few more inches, try the sock on and then decide. More repeats can reinforce the details of a pattern, and, as every lace knitter knows, stretching the fabric open can make the pattern pop too.

I'm sure you'll agree, now that we can see the finished socks, that those initial fears were groundless. The pattern and yarn are just fine together!

Now about this pattern: it's a bit surprising because it might be one of the very few Cookie A. patterns I've ever encountered with almost no knitting through the back loop. That was a pleasant change of pace. I don't mind some knitting through the back loop occasionally but not whole patterns of it, please!

It's always a nice touch when the cuff ribbing flows into the main leg pattern. In this case there's a transition chart, and the main pattern slowly emerges from the ribbing. Awesome! And the heel has it's own chart too, where the pattern slowly dissolves back into ribbing. More awesome!

One more nice thing? A plain stockinette wedge toe. Although it would be awesome knitting fun to knit another pattern chart for the toe; if I'm to wear them an unpatterned toe is preferable. I can't stand the feeling of decreases across the tops of my toes or under the pads of them. Sorry, that's just the way it is. I've been known to rip back patterned toes and reknit them to plain stockinette.

Now, I'd better get moving with Om Shanti. I need to get them finished and posted in the KAL thread on Ravelry before the end of September. Not to worry - they're knit on 2.75mm needles. That should take no time at all! Contrast that to this Fox Paws pattern .... Wandering Cat is trying to tempt me into a KAL with this pattern. That'd pretty much wreak havoc with Christmas knitting plans, wouldn't it?!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Year of Projects 04: Marilinda 01

SOCKTOPUS :  Farmer McGregor • Om Shanti

KNIT. SOCK. LOVE. : BFF • Clandestine • Cusp • German Stockings • Gothic Spire • Hedera • In and Out • Lissajous • Marilinda • Mona • Monkey • Pointelle • Rhombus • Sake • Stalagmite • Stricken • Thelonious • Twisted Flower • Wedge

Although for KAL timing reasons I probably should have cast on Om Shanti, instead I cast on Marilinda. It just looked like more fun. When I first glanced at the pattern I thought it was a lot of cabling, but it turns out to be mostly travelling stitches. That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I don't mind an occasional cable, but a lot of cabling is... well... tiresome. There are lots of fun charts, with a handful of symbols and corresponding stitch sequences that I have never seen before. That's kinda fun. And the heel flap is patterned; I just love that!

The yarn is Dye-Version stretch bamboo sock which I picked up from a Ravelry destash. I've been wanting to make a pair of socks for my sister, but her skin condition can be exacerbated by wool. I hope the Bamboo/Lycra blend is more soothing. It's interesting to knit. It's soft and a bit slippery with quite a bit of sheen to it. It looks like it wants to worm, but it seems to knit smoothly and the stitch definition is fine. It's not splitty like you'd expect for bamboo, and the lycra gives the bamboo a much needed springiness and stretchiness. So far, so good, other than a stripey-ness that I'm not entirely enamoured with.

I'm not very far along - just the first leg and heel knit - but the pattern actually flies pretty quickly. I just haven't had much time to spend on it. There are couple of reasons...

First, I've got a new computer at work. Thursday I finished the migration from old to new. Friday I spent downloading and updating software. Feels like I entered my Apple ID a thousand times! So far so good though; seems almost everything works exactly as it should. And the new MAC is lightning fast!

Second, I've taken over moderation of a group on Ravelry. It's my first experience with something like this so there's a bit of a learning curve. I've created and uploaded new badges, I've learned how to sticky threads and now I'm trying different things to encourage the participation of the group members. A big thank you to Wandering Cat Yarns for their support in donating a skein of yarn as a prize for our first KAL.

Third, I've been working with my brother to self-publish a series of stories to raise money for the restoration of a historic train station in McAdam, NB. He wrote a Christmas novella which will launch on November 9th ... well, presuming I got the illustrations done and the books printed. Looks like we're on track (lol - a train joke); the files are with the printer and we expect the first samples in the next few days.

Fourth, I've finished the blanket I've been working on since July. The baby is due early to mid December, however as overseas shipping can take 6-8 weeks unless you pay premium rates, my deadline for this was looming. I hope it will arrive to the expectant grandparents in time to gift to the expectant parents at a baby shower in the weeks before delivery. The pattern for the blanket is Sea of Dreams - this is the second time I've knit it and it's just a gorgeous the second time through. The yarn is Baby Cashmerino with I ordered from LoveKnitting.com. My yarn arrived in a sheer organza bag - just the perfect thing in which to wrap the finished blanket. Those adorable little gift tags you see? They're handmade by my friend Jane - her Etsy shop is here.