Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scylla socks

We're up early this morning getting ready for a long weekend at a friend's cottage at Lake Erie. With less than an hour of knitting left to finish my second Estonian Traveler's Sock, I decided to put it aside until I get home. I need something with several hours of knitting for the long drives there and back, as well as whatever amount of knitting time on the weekend. The second Caspian Seas sock is definitely not travel knitting, so I had a look at my queue.

Scylla Socks made my queue not just because they're attractive, but also because they're toe-up and designed for variegated yarn. Perfect for a couple of yarns in my stash that have confounded me in the search for a fitting pattern. And toe-up because these yarns are leftovers and I have less than 100 grams. With toe up I can stop the leg at half way through the yarn to avoid running out before the sock is complete. Hopefully I get something more than ankle socks!

I came across this yarn during my stash cupboard tidy up. It's Trekking Pro Natura, which is a merino and bamboo blend. I bought it a few years ago; I remember distinctly, because it was the first time I splurged on "expensive" yarn. Mom fell in love with it and knitted a pair of toddler socks from it, then the remainder came back to me when I inherited Mom's stash.

Friday, July 30, 2010

the loot bag

For every Stitch and Pitch ticket holder, there was a loot bag. Gavin gave his to me. The bag itself has a nylon shell with a waterproof lining and pockets of various sizes around the outside. I kept one and gave the other to a knitter whose friend couldn't make it to the game.

Inside was a ball of Kroy sock yarn. From my two bags I got a ball of Tangerine Jacquard and Bronzed Berry Stripes. Also in the bag? A Eucalan Wipes sample, a discount coupon for Soak and a discount coupon for the CreativFestival in October. Nice!

On the knitting front, I've been trying to get organized for Christmas knitting. Only 147 days to go! I've added a Christmas countdown to my sidebar to keep track. The Estonian Traveler's Socks are the first bit of Christmas knitting. And several more pairs of socks are planned. Better get knitting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stitch and Pitch

I met the Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, before the game.
Here's about how it went:

me: I'm so pleased to meet you. I read your blog every day.
YH: Every day!? Even the days I don't blog?

me: (now flustered) Well, every day you do blog. I used to read your blog aloud to my Mom. She enjoyed it, especially about the sock scavenger hunt.
YH: That's nice to hear.

me: (taking my Traveler's sock out of my knitting bag) Can I have a picture taken with you holding my sock?
YH: (looking my sock) This sock is righteous! What's the pattern?

me: (extremely flustered now) Traveler's Socks by Nancy Bush.
YH: (holding up my sock) Oh, you can tell a Nancy Bush pattern anywhere. That's good work. You have to hold my sock for the picture. It's only fair.

me: (examining her sock): Nice ebony needles. Lantern Moons like mine?
YH: No, [names a different needle brand].

Gavin takes the picture and I return her sock to her, with thanks. Hmm, sounds innocuous enough, but I can't escape the feeling that I was awkward and nervous while she graciously admired my sock.

A loud cheer went through our section of the dome when the Yarn Harlot took to the field to throw a ceremonial pitch. Her throw was short but kudos to her for giving it her best. Imagine how nerve-wracking that must have been!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

gearing up for Stitch and Pitch

I'm not much of a baseball fan. I've never attended a Stitch and Pitch event before. But when I heard that the Yarn Harlot was throwing out the first pitch at the Blue Jays game tonight it was too much to resist. This year's Stitch and Pitch seems to have generated lots of excitement here in Toronto - tickets were sold out at the first three LYS I phoned! So I'm guessing there'll be lots of familiar faces of knitters I've met at knit nights and other knitting events.

After much debate I've decided to take my Traveler's socks to knit through the game. Are they too complicated to knit through a baseball game? Not sure. Another knitter posted on Ravelry that she was going to knit lace, and if she can do that, I can knit these socks. Besides, if I meet the Yarn Harlot I want to have a knitting project in my hands that I'm proud of! Go Jays Go!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

back to the travelers

With 26 little woollen hats bundled up, wrapped and posted to Ireland, it was time to get back to my second Traveler's sock. Actually, laundry, gardening and grocery shopping first, then the sock. As you can see from the picture, things are proceeding at full speed and I'm about halfway to the heel.

Sunday I ripped out some Asiatic Lilies from the front garden. They were pretty when they bloomed, but for the last few years they've been infested by bugs - a tattered mess through the summer and fall. In the back yard, I ripped out a patch of Joe Pye Weed. I planted it to attract butterflies but it quickly got out of control. Maybe next year, I'll try some Columbines and Bee Balm.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the first dozen

With a dozen hats finished, I'd guesstimate that I'm about half way through the DK scraps I have on hand. These scraps are leftover from my Mom who bought several colours of Cashmerino DK for a baby sweater for Gavin's grandson. She splurged on the yarn to make it a very special sweater. The pullover had a puppy face done in colourwork on the front and it was the favourite sweater for baby's first year. I like to think that she'd be happy with the use I've found for these scraps. Mom was always keenly interested in the fun and oddball things that knitters around the world were up to. She was particularly amused by the Yarn Harlot's sock scavenger hunt. In fact, were she alive today, I imagine she'd be knitting little woollen hats along with me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

program change

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled knitting for something special - little woolly hats. A fruit drink company in Ireland is soliciting these little hats for their 250ml bottles; for every behatted bottle sold they'll donate 25¢ to Age Action to help seniors at risk cover their heating bills over the winter. Every year in Ireland about 2000 seniors die from cold related conditions. Remember how bad last winter was over there?

The little hats are adorable and fun to make. Not to mention, this is a great way to use up the scraps of Cashmerino DK in my stash! Each hat takes about 3 grams of yarn and each pompom takes another 4 grams. Although the fruit drink company has published patterns on their website, I've come up with my own. Finished hats must be 5-7 cm wide when laid flat and at least 3-4 cm tall, not including the pompom.

With 2.5mm dpns, cast on 32 stitches and join to work in the round.
Round 1: knit all stitches
Rounds 2 & 3: purl all stitches
Rounds 4 to 14: knit all stitches
Round 15: *knit 6, k2tog*, repeat to end of round (28 stitches remain)
Round 16: *k2tog*, repeat to end of round (14 stitches remain)
Round 17: *k2tog*, repeat to end of round (7 stitches remain)
Cut working yarn, thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull tight to close opening.
Make 1-1/2" pompom, attach and weave in ends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

on the way to work

Last night I cast on my second Traveler sock and worked the scalloped cuff as well as the first half dozen rounds of the leg. Now that the pattern's established, I should have no problem carrying on during my train ride on the way to work.

And once I get off the train, I have about a twenty minute walk to the office. Five minutes or so from the office there is some exceptional graffiti from Banksy. Amazing how many people walk past without noticing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a Traveler sock done

That's the first of my Traveler's socks done, and wow, do I love this pattern. The sock is just beautiful. These socks are intended as a Christmas present for a friend whose feet are about the same size as mine. Convenient, huh? Although, the further I get with these socks, the harder I'm finding the idea of giving them away.

Reading through Ravelry project pages for this pattern, I can't understand why so many people complain about crossed stitches. Sure, there's lots of them, but with the right needles and the right yarn they're not that much trouble. I'd take crossed stitches over cabling any day. And, yes, the pattern is intricate, but if you can read your knitting the stitches travel in a very repetitive and predictable way. After a few inches, there's little need to refer to the chart.

My review? An interesting knit - not so complex that it became frustrating, but not so simple that it became boring. Maybe the most telling thing is that I'm actually looking forward to knitting the second sock!

Monday, July 19, 2010

clear boxes for yarn storage

The first of my Estonian Traveler's Socks is nearly done as well. I turned the heel at work on Friday afternoon and worked most of the gusset on the train ride home. Saturday afternoon I spent an hour or so working on the foot before we left to attend a farewell BBQ for a friend who'll be working in Hong Kong for two years.

At the dollar store on Sunday we looked for a couple of styrofoam pool noodles - Gavin wanted them to cushion his board racks. The pool noodles were all sold out, but I found some clear plastic shoe-box sized storage boxes; perfect for tidy storage of stash yarn. And because they're clear plastic, I can see exactly what's where! So while the laundry was on the go in the basement I reorganized my yarn cupboard.

One clear box filled with sock yarn leftovers.
One clear box filled with novelty yarn leftovers.
One clear box with stuff like safety eyes, puffy paint, buttons and pompom makers.
One clear box packed with yarn and pattern for a toy bear.

And one more thing that's clear? I don't need any more yarn!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


My first Caspian Sea sock is done. Now that's colourwork! The cuff is finished with a twined edging - very easy to do, and quite a nice effect. The afterthought heel works well enough but the sock is tight over my ankle and arch. Usually when I work heel flaps I make them a bit longer to accommodate, but I don't know how to rectify this with a sock like this.

It's my first attempt at something like this, and it's certainly not perfect. For starters, I mistakenly made the small dots around the cuff red instead of green and yellow as they were meant to be. And remember when I mentioned adding a few rounds to the foot to make it longer? What I didn't realize was that the heel pattern picks up where the foot pattern leaves off. On the bottom of my heel there's a jog in the colourwork pattern. As well, I think that I need more practice getting the tension and length of the colour floats right. Some parts of my sock, particularly around the cuff, aren't as smooth as I'd like. But considering my inexperience, I'm pretty happy with the result. I wonder whether the second sock will be noticeably better?

Friday, July 16, 2010

bobbing along on Caspian Seas

At the end of the chart for the foot, the sock looked too short for my big feet so I extended the pattern by several rows before starting the multicolour cuff. I'm figuring that I'll be working the afterthought heel sometime on Saturday. See the pink waste yarn? As I remove it, live stitches will be exposed above and below. I've done this before - some mitten patterns like Quo Vadis use an afterthought thumb - but it's nerve wracking!

Then all that's left to do is to weave in the ends. And what a lot of ends! I'm hoping for a sunny day when the sock is done; all these photos on overcast mornings don't do the colours justice at all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

all these crossed stitches

These Estonian Traveler socks designed by Nancy Bush have been the focus of most of my knitting attention over the last few days. At the sides, crossed stitches zig zag back and forth between columns of purl stitches. In the middle of the sock crossed stitches weave in, cross and then weave out again creating a cabled effect. I'm really enjoying this pattern - it's fun to knit and the result is just beautiful. Did you know Nancy Bush is one of the teachers at Sock Summit 2011? And that this is her favourite pattern of all time?

Of course, I might not be so enthusiastic had my choice of yarn and needles not been so fortunate. All these crossed stitches would be a nightmare if you were trying to work with a splitty yarn or even a dark coloured yarn. And these pointy little Lantern Moon Rosewood Sock Stix are perfect for working them. It's such an enjoyable knit, that I'm almost looking forward to my train trip this morning!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tea Leaves done

Several attempts at staging my finished Tea Leaves sweater and this is the best photo I've got. Clearly it's one of those garments that looks better on the wearer than it does laid out on the floor. The cat thought the photo might look better with her stretched across the sweater, but I disagreed and lured her away with cat treats. As you can see, the second sleeve is done, as are both button bands, so the sweater is finished but for a couple of buttons. Seems like there are gorgeous buttons everywhere you look, until you actually need some buttons, and then none of them is quite right.

The activity level around here has picked up to coincide with Gavin feeling better. We spent Sunday morning celebrating my sister-in-law's birthday - chocolate cake and some handknit socks for her. She was thrilled with the Esther socks I knit her from Wandering Cat Alley Cat Sock in their Campfire colourway. Thank goodness they fit! The extreme fudge chocolate cake was a hit as well.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Traveler's Socks

The Caspian Sea Socks, you can understand, are not the best choice for a portable project for knitting on trains, buses or at work. Nor is my Tea Leaves cardigan. So I broke the rules and cast on a third project - Estonian Traveler's Socks from Vogue Knitting. I've had my eye on this pattern for a while. Why? It's challenging enough to be an interesting knit without becoming frustrating. The crossed stitches make very nice cable effects without the bother of a cable needle. And, the absence of yarn overs and eyelets make for a nice, warm pair of winter socks.

The pattern was published in 2006 but there are only 35 other projects on Ravelry. I can't quite figure out why that number is so low. Some Ravelers have complained about fit. Others about the nuisance of all those crossed stitches. So far, I'm finding this a very enjoyable knit. I guess I'll find out for myself how they fit sometime in the next week or so. Here's hoping that they work out nicely, because I was thinking of making another pair or two as Christmas presents.

In the absence of anything unforeseen, the second sleeve on my Tea Leaves will be done tonight. It's about half way now. After that, just one button band and the cardigan is done. Which will bring me back to two projects on needles - one portable and one not.

Friday, July 9, 2010

while it rains

There something about a colourwork chart that just pulls me along. One more round, I think, and I can see what the green looks like. Oh, and then a couple more rounds to finish the greens. Round after round the pattern reveals itself. This has been a really fun and interesting knit so far. One thing, though, with the body of the sock knit in two colours the fabric is thick. My finished socks are more likely to be worn as slippers around the house rather than socks for wearing in shoes.

The first drops of rain woke me at about 6:30 this morning. Now, after about 2 hours of steady rain, the temperature has already dropped a couple of degrees. Looks like the heat wave has ended. Maybe tonight I can finish up that second sleeve on my Tea Leaves cardigan?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

lesson learned

I stumbled across an important lesson in round 22 of the colourwork pattern. On round 21 yellow is introduced into the pattern. But when I come to the yellow stitches of round 22 the working yellow yarn is waiting on the far side of the pattern. What to do? To paraphrase Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' instructions:

Work the red and purple stitches but slip the yellow stitches purlwise to the end of the needle. Then turn the work, slip the purple and red stitches and, with the wrong side facing, purl the yellow stitches. At the end of the yellow pattern, turn back to the right side, slip all the worked stitches to get back to where you left off.

Simple, neat, easy. Why didn't I think of that? This is going to revolutionize the way I do colourwork, I can tell you that. I'm pretty excited about it. So excited that I held up the colourwork chart and explained the dilemma to Gavin. And wouldn't you know it? Before I could even start to explain the solution to him, he asked why I couldn't just turn the sock and work backwards for the yellow stitches. Exactly. D@mn him.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

a sleeve for Tea Leaves

Now that I've completed the first sleeve and one button band, I can breathe easier knowing that I have enough yarn to finish my Tea Leaves Cardigan. Although I also have enough yarn to make the sleeves full length, I prefer three-quarter length. It is a summer cardigan after all. It fits beautifully and drapes beautifully, and I really couldn't be happier with it. It's just right for wearing in an air conditioned workplace over a summer t-shirt.

I have started the second sleeve; in fact, it's about a quarter done. But with extreme heat alerts and temperatures feeling in the 40s with the humidex, I don't really want a sweater on my lap in the evenings when I sit down to knit. The second sleeve may have to wait until the end of the week when a break in the heat wave is expected.

I'm also being distracted by the book Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornsby which I'm enjoying tremendously - so much so, that I might have to search out his first couple of novels. But only after the second sleeve is done!

Monday, July 5, 2010

about casting on

With the help of several Ravelers I was able to sort out how to proceed with the cast on for my Caspian Sea Socks. I started with an Eastern or Turkish cast on which involves wrapping the yarn around two needles then knitting around the loops. It's kind of fiddly but it does create a perfect cast on for toe up socks. And it's definitely less work than doing a provisional cast on and grafting it closed later. With this sock pattern the cast on is complicated by the colourwork pattern. Twice as fiddly.

Mostly, though, I'm blown away by the whole idea that I can post a question to Ravelry and get a response from Judy Becker herself. Judy Becker who writes for Knitty. Judy Becker who developed Judy's Magic Cast On. That Judy Becker. Not to mention responses from knitters all around the world who have their own thoughts on how best to do this cast on. Ixtab (Rav name) suggested this variation of Judy's Magic Cast On. Now that looks fiddly, but I think I'm going to try it for my second sock!

Looks like I've got a lot to learn about casting on.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Caspian Sea Socks

The other day I was looking at a tutorial on Knitting Daily's site - reviewing seaming techniques for my little blue sweater - when I saw the list of links for free eBooks including 7 Free Sock Knitting Patterns. That's too much to resist, isn't it? And minutes later as I was clicking through the eBook, I came across this pattern for Caspian Sea Socks. Oh no, I have to try these!

To start the sock, I had to learn an Eastern or Turkish cast on. The pattern instructions left me in the dark, so I googled for help. One more little tip that I found helpful? Start with a slip knot just to keep the yarn tail in place until you're ready to knit the second half of the stitches. I was all thumbs trying to work it until I tried that!

But my next dilemma is how to do the Eastern cast on in the colourwork pattern? I'm perplexed, and more than a little frustrated, so I've posted to the techniques forum on Ravelry for help. I tried casting on in one colour and then starting the colourwork chart on the next round, but it's leaving me with a nub that ruins the shape of the toe. Add to that the fact that the sock is working up too small, I'm ripping out and starting again. And learning as I go!

Friday, July 2, 2010

DVD rentals reviewed

Green Zone, The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Messenger are what we watched yesterday. The Green Zone was okay but very predictable. We've enjoyed Matt Damon in the Bourne movies and hoped for more of the same, but this one didn't really deliver. As for The Men Who Stare at Goats, it had some occasional funny moments but fell short of Koen Brothers films like The Big Lebowski or Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. We were surprised by The Messenger - the acting was outstanding. I also rented Young Victoria which we'll find time for in the next couple of days.

While watching, I finished knitting the body of my Tea Leaves Cardigan. It fits nicely, but after adding 1-1/2" to the yoke and 2" to the body of the sweater I suspect I'm going to run short of yarn for the sleeves. My plan is to knit the button bands and then knit a sleeve. Once the first sleeve is done I'll know how much more I need for the second.

Thanks for all the good wishes for Gavin. Hopefully he starts to feel better soon!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

With Gavin feeling poorly a very quiet Canada is planned for us. He's suffering from a rather painful outbreak of shingles. That he went to his doctor without complaint is a clear indication of how uncomfortable he is. Poor him. Hopefully the antivirals provide some relief soon.

My plan is to catch up on a few work and personal projects, and then knit. Maybe finish the body of my Tea Leaves Cardigan by the end of today. Gavin's plan is to lie quietly on the sofa or in bed and take his medications on time.

Happy Canada Day!