Saturday, January 31, 2009

the 2 row rule

January can be difficult. Post Christmas letdown, the arrival of holiday bills, short days, cold temperatures, and oh yeah, snow and slush - there's not much good to say about January. It's easy to get tired and annoyed, and boy was I both yesterday. But then I saw a suggestion on one of the Ravelry forums - the 2 row rule. Before expressing annoyance or anger, first knit 2 rows. The knitter's equivalent of taking a deep breath and counting to 10. Good idea!

This morning, on this last day of January, I wove in the last few ends from my Renee Baby Blanket. I finished the knitting last night. What's left? Measuring 162 lengths of yarn, each 7" long for the tassels. And then wash, block and dry the blanket. I should mention, I wove in the ends using duplicate stitching on the reverse side of the blanket - thanks to this article - and the result is great.

Next? Let's see if I can get a second Tidal Wave Sock done correctly!

Friday, January 30, 2009

2 steps backwards

Well into the leg of my second Tidal Wave sock I went off the rails. Or whatever the correct knitting terminology is for that moment when you look down and realize that you have the wrong number of stitches and have missed some pattern rows. It was all so far off that I thought, Oh well, I'll rip it out and start a fresh project at my first SnB at Creative Yarns.

How was the Snb? Really good, actually. The store is in a strip mall at the intersection of two major streets, making it easy to find with plenty of parking. Nina, the store owner, showed me lots of great sock yarn choices and then took my coat and handed me a really good cup of coffee. The other knitters were all friendly and relaxed. Two hours flew by very pleasantly - I think I'll try to make it most Thursday evenings.

Returning home I felt quite pleased with myself. I'd attended my first SnB. I felt confident that I'm as good a knitter as most of the attendees - so I wasn't too nervous or embarrassed. I'd found a new LYS and emerged with just one ball of nice sock yarn. And I'd cast on and knit the cuff of my first Sprockets Sock from the pattern charts. Yes, I was really quite pleased with myself ... until I realized that I worked all the charts backwards. Everything I'd knit was wrong. Knitting charts are worked from right-to-left because you knit from right-to-left. And I had knit them from left-to-right, the way you read a sentence. Wonder if the others noticed?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

trying something new

Tonight I'm going to a SnB ... my very first SnB. And I'm not sure what to expect. It all started yesterday, when I decided to join more Ravelry groups so that I could lurk in more forum threads. Searching the groups by location I discovered Creative Yarns. Not far from my house. Not far off my usual drive home from work. And they have a SnB on Thursday evenings. With a little more lurking in the conversational threads, I decided to wade in. I joined online and posted in the welcome thread to ask a few questions.

First: Are there rules or customs about the project you bring? That is, should the yarn be bought at the hosting store? Some store owners won't allowing people to attend knit nights with outside yarn, but not Creative Yarns. Although, along the lines of dancing with the one that brought you, I think it'd be best to buy something to work on. Don't want to put a foot wrong on my first visit! Also, I'm knitting my Tidal Waves socks with acrylic yarn - don't want to get on the wrong side of any yarn snobs, at least, not right away.

Second: Is the store open during the SnB? Can I walk around, look at and buy things? Absolutely - in fact, I'm pretty sure buying yarn is encouraged! Which is great - looking at yarn is one of my favourite things to do. Tonight I'll look for some sock yarn for Sprockets Socks - this'll be my SnB project.

Third: Would it be disruptive if I arrive late? My mom attended a meeting which was very organized with an agenda and guest speakers, so lateness was frowned on. But I work afternoons - I can't predict my workflow or what time I can leave work, nor can I predict what the traffic will be like when I leave. Imagine arriving late and having the room fall silent, every one turning to stare! At Creative Yarns, everything sounds more informal - come and go as you please, I'm told.

Nothing but green lights - everyone online seems very friendly! Even got a welcoming pm this morning from the store owner. I'll let you know how it went tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

bits of good news

Look ... a finished sock! Cast on Sunday, finished Tuesday. That's about as close to instant gratification as I've ever experienced knitting. I played with a new yarn, learned a new stitch pattern and created a lovely little sock. I'm gushing, I know, but I'll admit now that I wasn't looking forward to knitting this sock. It wasn't my first choice of pattern, not even in my top five, so it's been a pleasant surprise. That's one thing about a KAL - it pushes me to try patterns and techniques that I wouldn't otherwise.

A bit more good news? I've stopped dragging my feet on my Renee Baby Blanket. I worked one more repeat last night, leaving one pattern repeat to work before the knitting is finished. As usual getting started again was the hardest part. It took a couple of rounds to get comfortably back into the pattern, but I'm getting better at reading my knitting to detect what stitches I've worked. In just a few days I'll have a beautiful blanket finished and ready to welcome the new baby in May.

And surprisingly, the news on the radio this morning is largely positive. Developments in the US banking system have led to some optimism on Wall Street. In Ottawa, the budget tabled yesterday has generated some enthusiasm on this side of the border. And, despite the snow storm forecast for today, I can feel it - Spring is coming.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

an enjoyable knit

My first Tidal Wave sock is about 2/3rds done. The wave pattern covers the leg, but the rest of the foot is straight stockinette. Which makes sense, because pattern stitches can make a sock uncomfortable in a close fitting shoe, but it makes the work a bit boring. Now I just want to finish the first sock and get back to the fun pattern stitches on the leg of the second sock.

I modified the heel flap - takes some nerve on my part, don't you think? I worked it in stockinette instead of slipping alternate stitches on alternate rows for a reinforced heel. The sock strikes me as a lightweight summery sock, so I opted for a simpler, lighter and thinner heel. The acrylic and nylon blend yarn will give the heel the durability it needs, I'm betting. And, taking a cue from the socks I just finished, I worked the first two stitches on each side of the heel flap in garter stitch to create selvedge edges.

But tonight, after work I've promised myself to get back to the Renee Baby Blanket. It's so nearly finished, it shouldn't take much time to get it done. Am I obsessive about knitting? Maybe. But as the waves flow from my needles, I surprise myself at how much I enjoy knitting these little socks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

so much better

In the special features at the end of the Vintage edition of the novel Gods Behaving Badly, author Marie Phillips explains "... the only way to discover what I do want to write is to write what I don't want to write." Reading that was like looking in a mirror - not just in the way I write my blogs but also in the way I knit.

Reviewing finished projects for this pattern in Ravelry helped me visualize the stitch pattern at it's best. And, after knitting 40 odd rounds in Paton's Stretch Sock I had to acknowledge that the sock wasn't working out at all the way I wanted. The colours were pooling and obscuring the stitched pattern. Seeing that made me realize that I needed a more subtly variegated yarn - like my new choice Peter Pan 4 ply in a print called Lupin Crush. Boy, am I glad I switched!

By knitting what I didn't want to knit, I could see more clearly what I did want to knit. If that makes any sense at all?! Realizing this, I'm less impatient with my many false starts - they're necessary steps in getting the result I want.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

ripping out

Into the third pattern repeat on the leg of my first Tidal Wave sock - time to face the music. The variegation of this yarn is not doing a thing for the sock pattern. And then there's the way the colours are pooling. No, I'm not happy with this at all. Best to rip it out now and try again with a different yarn. Maybe a semi-solid?

It's disappointing, but not altogether unexpected. Knitting with variegated yarn is always a risky proposition. Not to worry - most of my projects have a few false starts, before I get it right.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

easier with practice

My first Blackberrylicious sock was started in August last year. I ripped out, tinked back, and almost gave up on working the p3togs in this rather stiff wool. Getting the first sock done was an uphill battle. So I'm quite surprised that the second sock is almost knitting itself. Really, just a couple of days and I'm already at the heel. I guess there's a lesson there - maybe something about how difficult tasks get easier with practice?

What next? Time to get started on Tidal Wave Socks for my winter KAL. The pattern is shown in a variegated yarn, so I've pulled some Patons Stretch Socks in a "Taffy" colourway from my stash. Hard to know what to choose - it's really difficult to visualize how variegated yarn will knit up. Last fall I knitted myself some fingerless gloves in this yarn and really liked the fudge ripple-like appearance of the knitted fabric. So I'll give it a go. After all, if I don't like it I can always change my mind and switch yarns. Ripping out and restarting also gets easier with practice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a second sock

Yesterday, after blogging about the tedium of weaving in ends, it occurred to me that this was another thing that sock knitting had in it's favour - very little finishing. Just two ends to weave in, at the cast on and at the bind off. It really doesn't get any easier than that.

And yesterday, when I had a few minutes at work I clicked through pictures of finished Tidal Wave Socks in the project pages of other Ravelry knitters. Just to see what kind of yarns they used and with what effect. The Tidal Wave Socks pattern is the winter KAL that I've yet to start.

Yesterday after supper I set aside my Renee Baby Blanket, in favour of casting on my second Blackberrylicious sock. And was startled as I tugged the work snug when the working yarn broke. Hey! Now what? Maybe this section of yarn was missing some twist or something? Remembering my research from yesterday, I tinked back a needle to recover a tail on the old section of yarn, and then worked a stitch with both old and new together. Works great - completely invisible. Oh, and the washed sock is much, much softer. I'm not at all sure I'll be able to give the finished socks away.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ugh, finishing

Just 2-1/2 more pattern repeats to finish my Renee Baby Blanket. Or to put it another way, a couple more hours of knitting. And, as exciting as that is, my excitement is tempered by facing the hours of weaving in ends. I've never met a knitter who enjoys the tasks of finishing. In fact, it's so hated that some LYS offer finishing services for those who can't bring themselves to do it. To me, it's not as bad as all that but it is tedious. And in some cases, where the woven ends disrupt the pattern or texture of the fabric, or where the ends work themselves back out of the fabric, it can be very frustrating. Needed: tips for a more satisfactory result.

This first tip comes a little too late for me. recommends that at the end of one ball of yarn when starting the next, hold both strands together and work one stitch using both old and new, leaving 5-6 inch tails dangling at the back of the work. It sounds like a good idea - I'm going to try this when I get around to knitting the body of my Taiga sweater.

Several Ravelry knitters suggest splitting the plys and weaving them in separately with cotton, bamboo or other non-fuzzy yarns. The more slippery and less fuzzy a yarn, the more likely it is to work itself back out of the fabric. Alot more work, but may be worth it. And then from - weave in the end using a duplicate stitch on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. That way the yarn travels alongside the finished stitches and stays put. Okay, I'm on it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

my first sock of 09

The first Blackberrylicious sock is done! It's great to see it finished - not just because it's done, and not just because it's a good looking sock, but because I can look at without any regret. It's at this moment that I'm really glad I tinked back to fix that error, and really glad that the heel worked out as well as it did. The finished sock lives up to every hope for it when I first cast on stitches, and as I become a better knitter, I hope that's something I can say more often.

After putting it on a blocker for a sec to take a picture, I dropped the sock into a Eucalan soak. The Ravelry knitters experienced with Briggs & Little yarn advise that the wool really softens up and becomes more comfortable after washing. This is my first chance to use the Eucalan Mom and I picked up at Spun Fibre Arts. As I measured a teaspoon into 4 litres of tepid water I was surprised at how syrupy it is - extra concentrated, I guess. 15-30 mins of soaking, no rinsing required; how easy is that? Tomorrow, once it's dry, we'll see whether the wool softened up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

cold weather knitting

With temperatures hovering around -15° C and windchills of -30 to -40, all thoughts turn to keeping warm. For tens of thousands of Torontonians who were without power from Thursday evening to Friday evening, staying warm was a huge challenge. We've been lucky; although we had several power outages at our house, each was brief. Although, one outage set off the neighbours' smoke detector - we were serenaded by uninterrupted ringing from 8am until they came home at 6pm.

Cold weather is good knitting weather. Especially when it's wool socks on the needles. The first Blackberrylicious sock is nearly done - and as you can see it's looking very sock like now. The gusset decreases are done and I'm into the main part of the foot. And the row counter is still my new favourite toy. It's so much easier than counting back rows to figure when the next pattern row should happen.

Once the first sock is done, I'll get back to the Renee baby blanket. I've done a few rounds of it most evenings this week, so it's nearly done. I'm really looking forward to finishing, adding tassels and blocking it. Let's hope the newborn's parents are as happy with it as I am!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Several posts ago I noted loose stitches at the heel flap edges of my Thuja socks - I wasn't very happy about that. As I worked the heel of my first Blackberrylicious sock, I paid special attention, hoping to tug the stitches tight for a better result. I didn't need to worry. The pattern designer instructs that each row of the heel flap is started and ended with 2 knit stitches - creating a garter stitch selvedge, and the result is dramatically better.

A bit of internet research (thanks to JoLene Treace) show that there are a few different selvedge strategies - stockinette (knit RS, purl WS), reverse stockinette (purl RS, knit WS), garter stitch (knit RS and WS), or reverse garter stitch (purl RS and WS). Slipping the first stitch of each row is another strategy, but this could make the second stitch looser, so this isn't recommend unless a loose selvedge is wanted.

Thinking about and learning about selvedge edges will make me a better knitter. With careful thought and planning, I can improve the likelihood of satisfaction with my finished knitted goods. It's those little details that can really make a difference.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

minding my rows

When Jane hunted around for needles she came across a few other knitting items, from her gran and from her own short knitting career. And among these was a row counter, which she gave to me.

As I knit the heel flap of my first blackberrylicious sock, the row counter seems like a timely present - I tend to be very lackadaisical about keeping track of my rows. So, as much as I'm trying to mind my stitches, this may help me mind my rows. Because it's a very bad thing if the second sock doesn't match the first. I know that from bitter experience.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

tink, tink, tink ....

... tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink ... well, you get the idea!

I noticed a mistake eight rounds back, and, I'll admit it, I put the knitting aside for a few days and pondered whether I could leave it as is without regretting it later. And, after a few days, I decided to fix it, even though it meant tinking back more than 500 stitches. So, that's done, it's fixed and I'm glad I did it. And I promise not to complain about p3togs anymore. Because tinking them back is worse than working them in the first place.

Monday, January 12, 2009

did I really buy silk?

Didn't have the needles for the body of the Taiga sweater. Mom looked, she didn't have'em either. Went to a boxing day sale at Michaels to find almost all the needles sold out, including the ones I need. So what else could I do? Mom and I went to Spun Fibre Arts on the weekend. And I got the needles. Oh, and a big bottle of Eucalan, and a skein of Cadenza yarn - 80% Superwash Merino and 20% Tussah Silk.

Merino = regarded to be the finest and softest wool of any sheep.
Tussah Silk
= gathered from wild silk worms living naturally in tropical or semi-tropical, after the moth emerges. Generally stronger and more resilient than cultivated "white" silk.

For sure I didn't know all that when I bought the yarn. I just bought it because it is beautiful - a fire truck red with variegations of pink. I nearly wimped out and bought blue but Mom cast the deciding vote, and Red it is. Now to find a fabulous pattern for this yarn. And the time to knit it.

As for the Eucalan, it's highly recommended on Ravelry, so I thought I'd give it a try. Once I finish my Blackberrylicious socks, I'll wash them with Eucalan and then block them on my sock blockers. Everyone says that the Briggs & Little yarn really softens up after washing! Crazy huh, all that processing and then I soak the lanolin back in!

Friday, January 9, 2009

train spotting

Lots of progress on my Blackberrylicious sock. As you can see the pattern is starting to show nicely. And I'm coping with the p3togs, although they really slow me down. No progress on the baby blanket - the socks seem to have my undivided attention.

Lately I've been reading about knit-spotting on the TTC. On one Ravelry forum, knitters post when they see other knitters on the transit routes. eg. "Spotted on Lawrence 54A Eastbound at Cedarbrae at 6:14pm, knitting Fetching in light blue alpaca ..." I'm constantly amazed by knitters who can identify pattern, yarn and colourway from just a glimpse of knitting still on needles. And it gives you an idea of what a small world it is, especially when another post minutes later says "That was me. You were knitting green mittens on straight bamboo needles, right?"

I haven't been officially "spotted" on the GO Train, but when the guys come around to check tickets they usually ask what I'm knitting and for whom. Transit riders mostly keep to themselves, eyes down and headphones in. But now I'm going to peer around a bit more - see if I can spot any other knitters.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

slow and steady

Knitting update: slow and steady progress. As we watched old Chuck episodes last night I added another complete pattern repeat to my Renee baby blanket. Not completely without incident though, as I noticed halfway through a row that my slipped stitches were traveling in the wrong direction - tink, tink, tink. Now there's a skill that's getting lots of practice!

As well, I've completed the third pattern repeat on my first Primavera Sock. I think you can see the hints of blue and red in the purple wool. And how dark the wool is - hard to see the stitches and the pattern. The pattern is quite subtle - but I think once I build up the repeats it'll be clearer.

I've struggled with the "p3tog"s, but yesterday on Ravelry there was a post in the Techniques forum on exactly this topic - 80 readers within just a few hours. Suggestions included passing stitches back and forth to loosen them, switching to a smaller left needle or replacing them altogether with sl1 p2tog psso. Changing the stitch would change the appearance, so I won't do that. And I'm feeling a bit too lazy to switch to a smaller left needle. But loosening the stitches does seem to be the answer. And, really, it's nice to know that knitters everywhere are struggling with this as well. Somehow that makes me feel less impatient with myself about my struggles. Isn't that the lesson - slow and steady wins the race?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


In August I bought some beautiful blackberry coloured 1 ply wool at Cottage Craft in New Brunswick - the colour is just so beautiful that I had to have some. In November I cast on my first "Blackberrylicious" sock using the pattern Primavera Socks by Natalja S. But days later I ripped it out and put it aside. Until now.

The colour of the wool is very dark - very hard to see the stitches. And it's very fine as well - tiny dark stitches on tiny needles, yikes! Did I mention that it's 100% wool, so there's not much stretch or give with this yarn? This combination made it very hard to work the pattern and see what I was doing. After a few days I threw it aside in frustration.

But with the sloppy, slushy, snowy weather we're having now, I'm taking the train back and forth to work instead of driving. Which means I need a small and portable project for on the go - like socks! With good light and magnifying specs I've managed the first pattern repeat. So, fingers crossed, maybe I can manage the blackberrylicious socks after all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

sock blockers

The second Thuja sock is done. Funny, it's a really simple pattern but somehow or another that almost makes it difficult. I suppose because the simplicity of the pattern doesn't require much attention, I knit on auto-pilot and get careless. For these socks I used a machine washable wool - really nice to work with. And soft enough for next to the skin.

Of course, there are a couple of things I'm not entirely happy with. Although I tried to cast on loosely at the top of the socks, the ribbed cuffs are more snug than I'd like. Some sock knitters cast on using a larger needle size, or even two needles held together. Might have to try something like that. There's still some looseness at the heel where I picked up stitches from the side of the heel flap to knit the gusset. So I'm going to wash and block these socks to see if I can get it all evened out.

And to that end I have created my own sock blockers. Mom and I looked around but haven't had much luck finding sock blockers in our usual LYS. Saw some on but none from Canadian sellers - once you add the exchange rate, shipping and possibly taxes and duty, the prices climb out of reach. They say necessity is the mother of invention, don't they? So here's a look at the my first prototype. Pretty good I think, but I'm going to make the legs a bit longer and reshape the hanger area at the top a bit. If you any other suggestions, please post a comment!

Monday, January 5, 2009

on a Sunday?!

Canada Post delivered a parcel to my house on Sunday morning. Wait. Take a moment to think that through - Canada Post delivered on a Sunday. Never saw that coming.

Once I recovered from the shock of that, I snipped the plastic bindings and tore off the kraft wrap to uncover 12 glorious skeins of Briggs & Little Heritage 2 ply in Sheep's Grey. Which I had actually been expecting, having been tipped off by a phone call from my brother. The wool is a birthday gift which arrived belatedly, thanks to Canada Post. But so much better late than never!

The wool feels great and smells great. I'm sure to spend the next several days just enjoying the wool itself piled on my kitchen counter. But I've also spent some time looking around at patterns. And I think I've settled on this one - nice, huh?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

row 98

Clearly, until I finish this blanket this is destined to be the world's most boring blog. Knitting this blanket is all I seem to do. And I'm sorry, because it gets harder every day to come up with a picture of the blanket that's any different from the day before, so it must be very dull for anyone reading along. I've just completed the second row of the seventh pattern repeat - row 98 if anyone's counting - which puts me nearly half way.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still loving the blanket, loving the pattern and loving the yarn. It's all going swimmingly. And I'm not completely obsessed - the laundry is done, the house is clean and all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away. Still, I'm glad it's a baby blanket and not any bigger, because I'm starting the feel the temptation of other yarns and other patterns. Maybe I'll put it aside and cast on the body of my Taiga sweater during Hockey Night in Canada. Just for a change of pace.

Friday, January 2, 2009

shhhhh ... my aching head

Yesterday was fun, but I don't think I was the only one with an aching head today. So I spent a quiet day, tidying and knitting between tylenols and naps. The Renee blanket is about 1/3rd done now and I'll probably knit for an hour or so more until bedtime. Maybe tomorrow I'll finish the second Thuja sock.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

the first day

Several more rounds of my Renee Baby Blanket knit last night as we watched TV last night. And it's still going really well. The drape of the cotton fabric is really nice. But by 10pm we were off to bed - no midnight celebrations for us. Instead we celebrate with an Open House on New Year's Day.

Because today is the first day of a New Year - a year filled with endless possibilities. Let's leave the bad things behind in 2008 and move forward to all good things in 2009. First things first, though. I've got to clean my house and get snacks ready for the guests that will be arriving in the next few hours! Happy New Year everyone!