Tuesday, September 30, 2008

warm hands

Cast-on Sunday night and done this morning, with thanks to Elizabeth Durand for this pattern. A little pair of mittens to fit a child of about six, in Patons Classic Merino Wool. These should keep one little pair of Innu hands a little warmer this winter.

My first thought was to make a matching hat. But did you know that if you donate a newly knit wool baby blanket or child's sweater to the Warm Hands Network you get free admission to the Creativ Festival in Toronto? (Edit Oct 1: Oops! Not true! Sorry!) So now I'm thinking a matching sweater as well as a hat.

Can I start and finish a child's sweater in about 2 weeks? We're about to find out. And we'll see if the second Express Lane sock can be started and finished at the same time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

a little celebration

One down, one to go!
Hurray! Wasn't sure I'd ever get to this point!

The sock fits nicely. The cuff is just right - snug enough to stay up without constricting. The leaf pattern flows perfectly into the ribbing at the top of the cuff. The bottom of the foot is uninterrupted stockinette for comfort. And the finished sock looks nice. The pattern is quite striking - it climbs from toe to cuff on the front of the sock, and heel to cuff on the back. The soft, foggy lavender colour is lovely. And the yarn has bamboo content for a sock that's cool and breathable.

But there's one more to go... no good having a sock without a mate. I won't fall prey to "Second Sock Syndrome". I won't! I won't! (stamping foot) I won't! The second sock will be started in the next couple of days. And maybe finished by the beginning of next week!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I've been talking with a group of seniors about knitting for the Warm Hands Network. I don't know what they must have thought when I turned up without warning at one of their Craft Group meetings ! A few were distrustful - like I was trying to swindle their life savings. But a few were welcoming ... friendly, talkative, inquisitive. So I shouldn't have been surprised when Shirley piped up to ask that I drive a group of them to the Coats & Clark factory outlet.

Mom and I have been wanting to go, but you know what it's like. So much to do, so little time. But I figured we could go, shop, get back, all in time so that I wasn't too late for work. It might be fun. And to be honest, I wasn't sure I could say no to Shirley - she seemed pretty determined.

We had a great time. I have lots of new yarns in my stash. And Shirley extracted a promise that I would call her if I ever planned another trip to the outlet store. "Where are we going next week?" she asked as we parted.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

the click of needles

First sock progress? Toe done, instep done, heel done, and first chart repeat of cuff done. Lots of progress. On the needles it looks odd - not very "sock-shaped" to my way of thinking. But it looks and feels okay on my foot. Which is a round about way of saying, sorry for the lame picture but trust me it's going to be fine.

It's Saturday, and it's drizzling, so I'm hoping to get lots more done today. Maybe even finish the first sock. There's something very peaceful about the quiet click of needles against the backdrop of a grey and cloudy day. Like meditation ... aaaaah, the stress is melting away from me.

At least it was until I thought about laundry, grocery shopping and the list of the other things I need to get done. Okay, okay. I'll put my knitting aside and get on it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

with someone in mind

Each project is knitted with someone in mind. The pattern details might say "Make me for Patti - she loves Fair Isle." Or a yarn colour may say "I'm Janice's favourite colour - how about something for her?" Or I decide "Elizabeth would love handmade socks for Christmas - cast on something special for her."

So when the Knit Along group determines sock pattern, it puts me a bit on the spot. Because they aren't the patterns I would pick. Considerations of learning new techniques and availability of the pattern take high priority for a group like this.

But when the Express Lane socks were selected a name popped into my head. For the weeks that I struggled with the toe, the idea of finishing these and giving them as a gift seemed far-fetched. But now that they're back on track, now that my doubts about these socks have been quieted, the name is back in my head. I can't tell you the name - it's going to be a surprise - but I think she'll love'em. And really, what's more traditional for Christmas than socks?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

now I get it

"Super fast and completely uncomplicated, these socks almost knit themselves!" That's what the pattern says. It didn't feel that way over the last couple of weeks, as I knit and then ripped out. Then knit again and ripped out again. And knit once more and ripped out once more. Boy, that comment was really bugging me! Until now.

Because now I can see it's true. Now that I know the secrets of yarnover pairs for the short rows, now that the mysteries of working from charts have been revealed, now it seems "completely uncomplicated"

Now, too, it's going "super fast". The simple 8 row chart doesn't take much concentration. And, apart from the chart, the rest is stocking stitch - easy and quick. I'm glad I stuck with it. Now that I know what I'm doing, the second sock promises to be ... super fast and completely uncomplicated.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

it all comes together

Fourth time's the charm! The crochet cast-on worked perfectly - the cast-on is invisible and the waste yarn really did unzip just like they said it would. And the ybp1 yarn-over pairs now look just like their knitted cousins. So the toe of first sock is done, as well as the first repeat of the chart across the instep. Which is great. And now I'm excited about this sock again - which is also great.

There's a feeling of relief in my household. And it's not just me. Gavin had a look at this latest sock effort and expressed his enthusiasm. "Hmmph" he grunted, "Why didn't you do it that way in the first place?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

a fresh start

This morning I've made a fresh start on my Express Lane socks. With a shiny new crochet hook I've cast-on following this You Tube video. Now I'm starting my short rows with tips for working the yarn over pairs from the pictures in this blog. Fourth time is gonna be lucky, I know it!

I'll be happy when these socks are done. Not just because I'm sick of them and eager to go onto something else. But, because I've worked hard to learn these new techniques. And I've been quite determined about doing them right and not taking any shortcuts.

But I wish I could feel confident that I'll be happy with the socks themselves. Not because of the pattern - it's nice enough. But because the toe-up construction creates a toe that's very squared off across the centre. Nothing like the shape of my foot. So I can't really see how they're going to be comfortable. Guess I'll just push those thoughts aside for now and carry on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ready for the Express Lane

Too Cute! Yes, Bobbles the Sheep is done. My first finished object without any errors - no splits, no dropped stitches, no errors in the pattern, no regrets. And it looks exactly like the pattern. Hurray!

Okay, it's true... the dishcloth pattern is a million times easier than the sock that's giving me so much trouble. But this taste of success has perked up my enthusiasm and boosted my confidence. I'm ready to try Express Lane again!

Friday, September 19, 2008

something completely different

As a break from Express Lane socks, I decided to try something completely different. Something small, quick and fun. Something not frustrating. Something to use up scraps of yarn. A dish cloth seemed like just the thing!

While searching Ravelry for stash-busting projects, I found Bobbles the Sheep cloth by Rhonda K. White. Too funny! Looks easy, doesn't take much yarn and I get to learn how to do bobbles at the same time. And look how cute it is! A few of these would make nice stocking stuffers. Or a hostess gift.

In just over an hour, while watching The Love Guru on DVD, I cast on and knit about half of the dishcloth. My review? The movie is hilarious. And so is the dishcloth.


Yeah, I'm still struggling with toe up construction for my Express Lane socks. This time, I started with an "open cast on" from Knitty.com - it's better, but there's still a line. Think I'll try that again. And the sides of the short rows with yfK1 yarnover pairs look neat, tidy and tight. So I figure I'm doing that right. But the other sides - the ybP1 yarnover pairs - they look lumpy, so I'm not convinced that I'm doing these right. Back to Internet tutorials for that, I guess.

The good news? The yarn is definitely a better choice for these socks. It's much easier to see the stitches than with the fuzzier wools of earlier attempts. Easier to be sure not to split the yarn, too. And lighter and smoother, which should make the toe of the sock more comfortable. And the needle size and the gauge look right as well. Sorry Paul Bunyan - no socks for you!

Nothing's been ripped out yet. Mom's going to have a good look and give me her two cents. But it will be ripped out and tried once more. Because I want to be happy with these socks when I'm done. After all this hard work, it'd be a shame to settle for less.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

looks promising

The first yarn was too colourful. The second yarn was too thick. But this yarn seems just right

A tight twist, so each loop of the yarn over pairs is easily separated. Not too fuzzy, so it's easy to see each stitch. And a perfect sock weight so that the size looks about right. Fingers crossed ... it looks very promising.

At this rate I'm getting lots of practice at toe-up construction. On this morning's train ride, I made it to the halfway point of the toe. Tonight I hope to complete the toe, pick up the stitches from my provisional cast on and start the patterned rounds. And then I can have a good look to see how well it's worked. My fingers are still crossed, but I'm feeling a bit more optimistic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

try, try again

My attempt at socks from Cottage Craft wool reminded me of Paul Bunyan - the folklore lumberjack who supposedly created the Grand Canyon by dragging his giant axe behind him. 'Cause he's the only one who'd fit these socks. They'd even be too big for my feet - and my feet are pretty huge! No choice but to rip out again and plot a new course.

For my third attempt, I've gone back to my stash for SRK On Your Toes Bamboo. And I'm hoping this'll finally work. The last couple of days have been frustrating. Gavin asked why I kept trying - pointing to my Comfy socks I knitted on my East Coast trip, he suggested I make another pair of those instead. But that's not how the Knit Along works. I'm committed to knitting the chosen pattern and learning the new skills the pattern demands. And, if you didn't know, I'm stubborn enough to keep trying.

Monday, September 15, 2008

straight to plan C

Just one of those days, I suppose. The Ford dealership quoted $1G to replace a $65 sensor. Oh, I don't think so. Nearly missed my train when they rerouted it to the south platform from the usual north platform. Don't they know announcements are wasted on those of us with iPods? And then there were my sock woes...

Shortly before Guildwood station I admitted I wasn't happy with this sock. The toe was wider than the instep - the toe was worked in rows, so blame my deplorably loose purl rows. And then there was that ridge where I picked up stitches from my provisional cast on - I tried to convince myself to let this go, but it was still bugging me. While struggling through the toe and heel, I clung to the hope that blocking would even out some of the bulging decreases. All the while the whole sock felt too small, although I tried to ignore that too. Deep breath, rip it out, start again.

For my next trick, I'm going to knit Express Lane Socks with Cottage Craft Blackberry wool. I'm going to knit the toe with smaller needles than the instep. I'm going to be very careful about how I pick up stitches and how I do the short rows for the toe and the heel. And I'm gonna save the handpainted yarn until I get better at knitting socks.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

going for it

After a day and a half of dragging my feet, and after a couple of fortifying beers, I worked up the courage to block my Chicabean scarf. And, I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with the result. Although the steam flattened the cables somewhat, it really opened up the lace panels between the cables. The whole scarf looks better - it lays flatter and, spread out like it is now, it seems lighter and silkier. And it's a relief to have it done.

So I'm on to Express Lane socks for my Knit Along Group. My first Toe-Up socks, so I didn't know what to expect. Then I read pattern notes ... "The instructions for the short rows may seem strange at first, but will make sense once you are actually doing it!" Hmmm, that's a little worrying, isn't it? So I cast on and just went for it.

I'm pretty sure I've messed some of it up. There's a ridge of twisted stitches on the bottom of the foot where I picked them up from the provisional cast on ... that can't be right. And I bet some K2TOGs and SSKs are mixed up in the leaf pattern on the front. But the bright colours of the yarn help to hide it all, and the result is quite striking. Toe up construction is disconcerting, surprising and actually quite cool. And who knows, maybe I'll get a bit better at it on the second sock!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

fingers crossed

While checking out Hurricane Ike coverage this morning, I worked at finishing my Chicabean scarf. Taking a tip from the pattern for my BYOB bag, I split the yarn tails and sewed 3-4 plys in at a time. Hopefully that'll keep the tails from working themselves out over time.

But it still needs to be blocked. I guess I'm dragging my feet a bit, 'cause I'm not really sure how I'm gonna do it. On the forums people have warned that bamboo swells when soaked, so I'm leaning towards steam blocking between damp tea towels. I'll give it a go tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I swatched with my handpainted yarn - just to see. Wow - it's awesome! There's always the chance that the colours could pool as the sock progresses ... if it happens, I'll go to plan B - a solid lilac colour sock yarn But if it doesn't pool these socks will be fantastic! Time to take a chance, I think.

Friday, September 12, 2008

next lesson: blocking

No yarn left, so Chicabean is done. At least, the knitting is done. A momentary crisis of indecision about how to bind-off was resolved after consulting a Knitty article - I opted to bind-off purl-wise on the last WS row. All that's left now is sewing in the yarn ends and blocking.

Oh yeah. Blocking. There's something I've never done before. In theory, pretty much everything I knit is supposed to be blocked when I'm finished. But I've never done it, don't know how to do it, and don't know anyone else who's done it. Uh oh.

When in doubt, it's back to Knitty for me. And wouldn't you know it, they've got me covered. With the help of Jessica Fenlon Thomas, I'm going to be teaching myself how to block a scarf tonight. It's one more step to becoming a better knitter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Warm Hands

Through Ravelry, I've "met" - in an online sense - Anita, whose Warm Hands Network collects hand knit hats and mitts for Innu Communities in Northern Labrador and other cold places. Mission Falls donated a pattern. Yarn shops across Canada collect the donations. Air Labrador will fly the woollens to Labrador. A Collective of Innu women is waiting to distribute the donations. Wow, this Anita is really organized!

Which got me thinking... there's a lady where my Mom lives who always has something on needles - mittens, socks, hats, just something small that doesn't take a lot of wool. And whatever she knits, she donates. And Mom and I are pretty much always knitting something. Now I've met someone who is looking for just that sort of thing. Hmmmmm.

Mom and I put together some kits for seniors in our community - enough Patons Classic Merino to do a hat, mitts or both, some patterns for charitable knitting, a letter describing the guidelines and tags to personalize to their completed projects. Now, let's see how many woollens we can send to Northern Labrador!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

handpainted colours

September's Sock for my Knit Along Group has been chosen .... Express Lane! An easy pattern with a beautiful leaf pattern running down the front of the sock from cuff to toe. And it's a toe-up sock - something I've never done before - so I'm keen to get started and see how that works.

The pattern designer remarks " ... looks great in solids or multi, so you can use all that patterned yarn that would be lost in a fancier design." With that thought, I spread the yarns of my stash around me to decide which to use. In New Brunswick at Cricket Cove, I bought some handpainted sock yarn. I've looked at it again and again, worrying ... maybe it's too bright? Too loud? Too wild? And wondered if I would ever find the project for it. Maybe this is the one?

What to do? Guess I'd better rewind the hank into a ball and knit a swatch. And see what I get. No way of knowing whether I'll like or not, until I've done that. But if the look of the ball I got from rewinding is anything to go by, it's going to be fantastic!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the final stretch

I feel bad for complaining about boredom a few days ago. Because my Chicabean scarf's working out really well. Despite how split-prone and slippery the yarn is, the scarf is knitting up quite quickly. With less than a skein left, it measures 38"... so the final length should be about perfect. And it is soooo soft.

The simple combo of cables and lace is really nice. Nothing I like better than matching columns of left and right cables. The Bamboo holds the cable architecture well - neatly defined stitches, nothing wishy-washy about it. And with it's slight silkiness, the light reflects smoothly off the knitted work to show the cables beautifully. Very pretty ... even Gavin says so.

For the next couple of days, I'm going to quietly and patiently work at this little scarf. And enjoy the knitting of this pattern and this yarn. Because it really is working out very well. And it's going to make a beautiful Christmas present. No more complaints. Promise.

Monday, September 8, 2008

exploring the LYS

Mom's friend mentioned Spun Fibre Arts ages ago. We'd meant to check it out before but hadn't found it when driving around in Burlington. So armed with a map and directions from their website we set out.

Wow, it's well hidden! "Tucked in the corner behind KFC ..." - we'd never have found it without that hint. But it was so worth the effort. Loads of fabulous yarn, including some spectacular colours of Mission Falls Cottons. Millions of patterns and kits and ideas. All in a well-organized store with lots of comfy seating and very friendly staff.

Congratulations are in order - I didn't buy even a single skein of yarn. But I've put a hand-dye kit and a drop spindle kit on my Birthday list. And saw a great stash-busting pattern idea... but you'll have to wait to hear more about that later!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

should have asked Mom first

Each morning of my Fredericton vacation, I munched Shreddies in my brother's kitchen and admired a charming knit tea cozy gracefully draped over a Brown Betty teapot. And I imagined this was some heirloom lovingly passed to my sister-in-law from a beloved elderly female relative. A family treasure.

A couple times I considered asking to borrow it. Simple enough pattern ... I could probably reverse engineer it. No! To respect the designer's copyright, I'd better search out the original pattern and pay the asking price.

After searching Ravelry in vain - using both the American and British spellings of "Cozy/Cosy" - I almost gave up. At Spun Fibre Arts today, I asked Mom to look for Tea Cozy patterns. Imagine my surprise when she informed me that she knitted Patti's "heirloom"! Later, at her apartment, she pulled the pattern from some papers in her bookcase and handed it to me. A Tea Cozy or two, and some coffee cup warmers - add them to the list of stash-busting projects.

Friday, September 5, 2008

row after row

Nine repeats done - my Chicabean scarf is progressing. And it does get easier as it goes. Which is exactly what I hoped for, so I should be happy, contentedly knitting rows of my favourite cables, blissfully enjoying this lovely yarn, right?

So I feel bad admitting I'm bored. Tired of this same repeat over and over again. Fed up with splitty yarn. Sick of tinking and peering at each stitch. After 9 repeats, 72 rows, 2952 stitches, I don't think there's too much more excitement to be had from this scarf.

But an average scarf is 48-50 inches long - not the measly 9 inches I've knit so far. At least 39 more repeats, or 312 more rows, or 12,792 more stitches before it's finished. A bit overwhelming, thinking of it that way. Time to be disciplined and get this finished. It helps to think how great it'll be when it's done. But it also helps to know that the next project will be a fabulous pair of socks for the September KnitAlong.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

watching every ply

Sorry, I can't really blog today. The 10 plys are so prone to splitting and the yarn is so slippery that knitting this scarf is taking all my concentration. There's been so much tinking going on to fix splits that I may have to call it the twice-knit scarf. Or possibly the thrice-knit scarf depending on how it goes.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not upset. It's a good exercise for me in patience - not something I'm typically known for. And it's still the silkiest yarn I've ever felt. If I weren't gripping the needles so tightly to keep it all from sliding into my lap, my fingers would be sighing with pleasure.

Soon I'll have several repeats done and be well on my way. With luck it'll get easier as I go. But forget the idea of starting and finishing this in a few days. Hmm... better get back to it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

stash busting

When I said my stash was overflowing, I wasn't kidding. There's yarn everywhere ... in my clothes cupboard ... on the kitchen counter ... in bags in the front hall ... even at Mom's! So that's it! No more yarn shopping until I've worked my way through what I have!

Several weeks ago, I picked up some Be Sweet Bamboo at the Knit Café. Gorgeous - silky soft and luscious green. But what do with 3 skeins of worsted weight bamboo? A bit thick for socks, I think. And not warm enough for mittens. Definitely not enough for a sweater or vest.

Searching Ravelry for patterns using small amounts of worsted yarn, I happened on Chicabean Scarf by The Kelly Green Rogue (http://rogue2408.wordpress.com). Some cables, some openwork - it's gonna be great! And like a kid on Christmas morning, no sooner had I printed the pattern, then I had to cast on and knit the first repeat. All the while congratulating myself for using yarn from my stash.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

comfy comfy socks

Just before running out of yarn, I finished my comfy socks. And it was really close! Holding my breath through the last few rounds at the toe. Glancing nervously at the dwindling pile of yarn. Pondering how to approach the subject in my blog.

But the socks are finished. And comfy is exactly what they are! With rib down the leg and across the top of the foot, the socks stretch in every direction for a great fit. And for once, my socks are long enough from heel to toe for my extra-long feet.

Really, it's good there's no yarn left. There's never enough for another project. And, after my East Coast trip, my stash is overflowing. I just wish I hadn't spent the last several rounds worrying.

Monday, September 1, 2008

wasn't expecting that

Except for the drive from Rivière du Loup to Cornwall ... hours where I couldn't retrieve my dpn from where it fell under the driver's seat ... progress on my comfy bamboo socks has been quite steady and uneventful. Or so I thought!

A nice, portable project to occupy the seemingly endless hours of driving. A pattern simple enough to knit without a great deal of concentration. No problem to start and finish ahead of the September Knit-A-Long. But as I pulled on the first sock to model it for Gavin, I watched in horror as a dropped stitch unravelled through the decrease rows of the gusset, back to the picked up stitches at the edge of the heel flap, to leave a laddered hole and 3 orphaned stitches.

They're secured on a safety pin now - to put a stop to any more unravelling. So I'm gonna be learning a lesson or two about how to fix dropped stitches today. And maybe that old lesson about pride going before a fall.