Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Surmount the Stash 2013

Last year at this time I did an inventory of yarns in my stash with a focus on dishcloth cotton, assorted DK cotton, Baby Yarn and Sock Yarn. My goal is to eventually work through all the yarn in my stash and just have a couple of shoeboxes of Sock yarn. I'm not there yet.

Still, I started 2013 with 456 grams of dishcloth cotton and finish with less than 200 grams - that's just a few dishcloths to knit in 2014. I'm sure I can manage that. As for the other assorted DK cottons I've cut that quantity to less than half, ringing in the New Year with about 230 grams. I was very successful with the baby yarn - it's all gone. Same goes for lace yarn - it's gone too. Thanks to a cup cozies, gnomes, stockings and hats knit for craft shows, I've worked through most of my worsted weight and acrylic DK stash. There are two shoeboxes of assorted scraps left; I need to think about how to use up the rest of this. I should also mention that there's a skein of MadelineTosh Pashmina that was a gift - but I'm looking for a very special pattern for selfish knitting for that one!

Now for sock yarn. I started the year with 7 new 100 grams skeins and 7 new 50 gram skeins. This morning, I've counted 10 new 100 gram skeins and 1 new 50 gram skein. Same number of grams! That's okay though, because there are nine sock patterns left in my Year of Projects so those skeins are mostly allocated to patterns. I made a small amount of progress on my sock yarn scraps ... the scraps weigh just over 850 grams now. All in all, the sock yarn fits in two shoeboxes which satisfies a mini-goal for me.

But that's the stash I'd really like to address this year - sock yarn scraps! And in that vein I've decided to knit baby socks over the next several days. Ann Budd created a set of five different pairs of Better than Booties Baby Socks for the Summer 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. Three of those are available for free from Knitting Daily. This is a pattern I've done before, and the parents of the newborn were really pleased with how well they fit and stayed on - so that's a pretty good endorsement. Friend's are expecting in March, so a few pairs will be gifted to them and then the balance will be donated to charity. Each pair takes about 18 grams of sock yarn, so we'll see how far I get. A lot of my sock yarn leftovers are less than 18 grams.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Mince Pie Mayhem 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

These socks are something special ... and not just because they are a gift for a friend who turns 60 today! Even Gavin is impressed by the pattern of these socks; he shows them to whoever visits.

They really are quite something. The construction, with the heel expansion area, is really neat and interesting. The toe as written is a star toe. Because I'm participating in a KAL I've knit the toes as written, but shortly after photographing and logging the finished socks on Ravelry, I ripped out the toes and reknit them as wedge toes. Much more comfortable not having lines of decreases beneath your toes!

The yarn is Alley Cat Sock in a colourway called "Big Red Barn" and I think it's perfect for this sock. It's subtle tonal variegation doesn't detract from the pattern. It's a lighter weight, tighter twist fingering than Top Cat MCN, but with the density of this fabric, lighter is definitely better. I was worried about 80 sts on 2.25mm needles, but I needn't have worried - it's a nice snug fit.

The next sock on the KAL list is Fiori de Zucca. It's not a sock I'm immediately attracted to ... well, until I read the project notes of several Ravelers who remarked that about how pretty they are. I've got some honey coloured MCN sock yarn that strikes me as perfect for these socks, so I'll cast those on next week. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Mince Pie Mayhem 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

It's a picture heavy post today - sorry if it takes a while to load. First things first: last week I was just short of the toe on the second of my 2luvcrew socks. Six weeks after casting on, they're finally done. To be fair, they sat unloved for several of those weeks, so you shouldn't conclude the pattern is that labour intensive.

I'll admit that I like these socks better than I thought I would. Lace socks aren't really my thing, and a patterned toe? Well that just seems wrong to me. And then there's all that knitting through the back loops ... grrrrr. All that being said, the finished socks were worth the effort. I haven't actually worn them in shoes or boots yet. It's been cold, wet and icy for the last several days, so lace socks haven't held much appeal.

With the pink socks off the needles it was time to cast on Mince Pie Mayhem socks. I'm knitting the medium size on 2.25 mm needles. With 80 sts I'd have guessed that the size would be largish, but all these criss-crossing stitches have really condensed the fabric. If you're considering this pattern, don't go small!

The construction of this sock is very interesting. Rather than a heel flap and gusset, the heel continues in pattern while stitches are picked up between the heel and the instep to form an expansion area - a technique that originated with Cat Bordhi, I think. As written the pattern allowed for 11 sts added in each expansion area. Some Ravelers noted that the heel was too shallow, and since I generally lengthen heel flaps anyway, I decided to add another chart repeat to the heel to increase 15 sts instead. As a result, my heel is almost 3/4" deeper and the circumference around the heel and instep has been increased almost an inch and a half. It's still snug, so this was a good call.

Working a heel this way keeps you working entirely in the round except for the actual heel turn. And you don't need to pick up any stitches so there are no holes. I'm fascinated by this technique and am considering some vanilla socks using this technique. The expansion area would totally disappear into the fabric, wouldn't it?
It's also been a good pattern for practising cabling without a cable needle. The mind boggles at how long the knitting of this sock would take if you were crossing the stitches using a cable needle. Just as well it's going quickly - I need to get these done by the end of the week.

Looks like I'll have plenty of knitting time today; we're just emerging from an ice storm. Everything has a coating of ice. Gavin spent 45 minutes this morning chipping the ice off the windshield to drive home from work, but reports that the roads are brutal. Lots of trees and tree limbs are down. Much of the city has power outages. More than 250,000 households have been told that power might not be restored for 72 hours or more. I guess that'd put a stop to Christmas baking. My neighbourhood has power, so we're lucky, but I don't plan to venture far from home today.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

Over at the Socktopus KAL on Ravelry we are knitting Mince Pie Mayhem socks from December 1st to January 31st. I've finally cast on and made a start.

As written there are small, medium and large sizes knit on 2.5 mm needles knit over 72, 80 and 88 sts respectively. After reading the comments in project notes on Ravelry I decided to cast on 80 sts and work the sock on 2.25 mm needles. So far I've found it necessary to shift down a needle size on every pattern in the book to get a nicely fitting sock, but now with this sock, the sock might end up small. It's really quite amazing how much the fabric is condensed by the criss-crossing twisted stitches. Still, it fits over my heel, ankle and leg, so I'm continuing as is.

The yarn is a colourway called "Big Red Barn" from Wandering Cat Yarns. Every year I knit a pair of red socks for a friend whose birthday falls just before New Years, so this yarn was the perfect choice. It's Alley Cat sock which is a light fingering - nice tight twist and not splitty. With this many twisted stitches, that "not-splitty" part is a must. And with this dense a fabric, the lighter the yarn, the better I think.

That's it for me, this work-in-progress Wednesday. I've been finishing up some other projects to show on Friday, all with a view to ending the year without any WIPs on the needles. So far, so good. As you can see in the photo, it has snowed AGAIN and there is more and more snow in the forecast. Can't wait to see what my drive to work is going be today!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Year of Project 2: 2luvcrew 04

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

In last week's post I suggested that I'd be finished these socks by now. Yeah ... overly optimistic once more. Still, they're close; just a few more repeats on the foot and then the toe. Of course it didn't help that I had to rip back and reknit the transition to the heel flap three times ... stupid not-reading-pattern-instructions stupidity.

Although I fell a bit short of my knitting goals last week, I don't feel badly. All in all it was a very productive week. The secret Christmas knitting is done. Almost all the gifts are wrapped. The out-of-town gifts have been mailed. I've even made a good start on grocery shopping for the holidays. Hmmm, I wonder what I've forgotten?

It has also occurred to me that it's within the realm of possibility that I could finish every single WIP before New Year's Eve. The idea has its charm, and with that in mind, I've pulled out the second Brain Hat - this time in sport weight acrylic - and pinned the gyri for the right hemisphere. That's a ton of sewing though - not my favourite thing - so this might also fall into the overly optimistic category. We'll see.

So those are my two priorities for the coming week. Once the socks are done I'll cast on for Mince Pie Mayhem. According to my plan, that's the last bit of knitting for 2013. But you know what usually happens to the best laid plans, right?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Year of Projects 3: 2luvcrew 03

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

You'd think that after a month without blogging that I'd have more to show you. Sadly, not. November was terribly busy - two craft shows and a weekend in New Brunswick for a book launch - so I didn't find much time to knit. I did sneak in a few secret Christmas knits. And honestly, I lost my knitting mojo for a few weeks there. It didn't help that I miscalculated how crazy long the toe section of this sock pattern is. I tried it on just before grafting the toe to find that the foot was much too long. Aargh! RIP!

There's a finished 2luvcrew sock in the photo but that photo is several days old. As of this morning I'm at the heel of the second sock and things seem pretty firmly back on the rails. At least I don't have to guess how far to knit that second foot. More good news? Sock one weighs 46 grams so I've got yarn to spare to finish Sock two.

The jury is still out on the long ribbed toe section. While I was knitting, I was mostly set against it but now that I've had the sock on my foot I'm warming up to it. This is definitely one of those patterns that looks better on your foot than on your needles.

There is one bit of Christmas knitting I can show you - one more (last and final) gnome. I sold out of the half dozen gnomes I'd made previously within just a few minutes at the first craft show. And then took a special order for one more. If I do more craft shows next year I'd best make a bunch more of these. They're a pretty quick and easy knit especially now that I've converted the pattern to knit in the round.

My plan for this week includes one final secret Christmas knit and then to finish these socks. I've already wound the yarn for the next pattern of the Socktopus KAL - Mince Pie Mayhem. They'll be the perfect gift for a friend with a birthday just before the New Year!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Year of Projects 3: 2luvcrew 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

Now that the craft show has come and gone I hope to spend more of my time knitting socks. That's one thing that has become really clear to me with so much going on and so many deadlines - I'd rather being knitting socks than doing almost anything else.

So far the trickiest part of this pattern has been the cast on - and that was tricky only because I'm more of a visual learner than one who learns from written instructions. Once I found a couple of YouTube demonstrations, I was away to the races.

The leg of this sock is quite short, so after just a handful of inches I'm nearly ready to start the heel flap. I considered making the leg longer but decided against it. Arguing against is the fact that the pattern isn't that stretchy - I doubt it'd stretch over the calf nicely and still fit snugly at the ankle. Besides, I've heard the pattern eats yarn, so adding more repeats would really just be tempting fate, wouldn't it?

The pattern is quite cute. I had feared it'd be really lacy with all the yarn overs I'm doing, but it's not. Maybe the chilly temperatures these days are influencing my tastes? I just want thick, warm and comfy socks. The weatherman is warning for snow squalls on the drive home today! Ugh.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Year of Projects 3: 2luvcrew 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

Thursday morning I finished my Vorticity socks with just inches of yarn to spare and just a few hours left in the Wandering Cat Yarns KAL. If you're curious, they're blogged here.

It's always fun to cast on a new sock pattern, and today it was even more fun, as it involved a new (to me) cast on method. The Channel Island cast on gives a stretchy edge to the cuff and every other stitch has a little bump that makes the edge look almost like picots. For this sock the cast on is made with just a single strand of yarn but some of the YouTube tutorials show the Channel Island cast on with two or three strands for a really pronounced decorative edge. Cool!

The pattern is written in small and large sizes. The yarn I've chosen - Sock Luck from Studio June Yarn - is a light fingering so I'm knitting the larger size on smaller than recommended needles. Hopefully the sock size ends up somewhere in the middle :) This colourway features tonal pinks which will work nicely with all the heart motifs. Besides, it's stash yarn so it's nice to finally knit it up. I did read that some Ravelers ran short of yarn, so the fact that Sock Luck is put up in 460 yard skeins is another point in its favour. No need for another game of yarn chicken quite yet!

Now hopefully I can find some knitting time between now and next Sunday so that I can show you the heart pattern. It's not looking too promising because I really ought to be spending every spare moment preparing for a craft show next Saturday. Somehow, though, I'd rather be knitting socks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Finished Object Friday: Vorticity Socks

Pattern: Vorticity Socks by Alice Yu

Yarn: Twisted Top Cat by Wandering Cat Yarns in "Tidal"

Needle Size: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 0 (2mm)

Modifications: Based on project notes from other Ravelers mentioning how large these knit up, I shifted down one needle size for the leg to the bottom of the heel flap and then shifted down another size smaller for the foot. Also, I added some length the heel flaps.

Comments: As I knit the first sock and watched the yarn get eaten up, I knew it was going to be close. And after finishing the first sock, the kitchen scale confirmed - 52 grams for the first sock and 52 grams left for the second sock. By the time I turned the heel of the second sock I was convinced that I was going to be ripping out the toe and the last repeat on the first sock to salvage some yarn. Knitting faster and faster  - because knitting faster uses less yarn, right? - I managed to squeak out that second sock with just a few inches of yarn to spare. It's there on the ground in the picture. Hurray!

This is my first time knitting with Twisted Top Cat. It's an MCN sock yarn but with more twist than their usual MCN base. The extra twist leads to lovely stitch definition and it's also likely to make these socks more hard wearing, but it does take away from the softness of the cashmere. Still gorgeous yarn, though.

The pattern is my favourite so far from all the socks I've knit from Alice Yu's book Socktopus. It looks really complicated, but it's actually pretty easy once you sort out the first repeat with its changing stitch counts from round to round and shifting beginnings of rounds. I finished it yesterday morning - well in time for the Socktopus KAL prize deadline and just in the nick of time for the Wandering Cat Back-to-Socks KAL prize deadline. If I'd had to rip back on sock one, I probably wouldn't have made it in time for the latter.

Happy Friday one and all. It's a wet and windy Friday here, so surf's up on the Lakes! That's where you'll find Gavin today, I'm sure. It's also Finished Object Friday over at Tami's Amis, so make sure to take a few minutes to have a look there!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Finished Object Friday: The Brain

Pattern: Brain Hat by Alana Noritake

Yarn: Briggs & Little Heritage in Sheep's Grey

Needle Size: US 8 (5 mm)

Modifications: The pattern was written for fingering weight yarn, but I've used worsted weight to go with the gloves I already made for Gavin. For the beanie, I cast on 80 sts, work 10 rds K2P2 rib, work 30 rds stockinette, start crown decreases - 10 per round every alternate round - until 30 sts and then every round to 10sts, cut yarn and thread through remaining sts. The finished beanie used 62 grams of yarn and fits perfectly.

For the iCord, the worsted weight yarn is too thick for an Embellish Knit machine, so all of it is hand knit - 14 feet for each brain hemisphere (another 110 grams of yarn). The designer includes instructions about attaching the iCord with a crochet hook and yarn, very painstakingly attaching every single stitch along the length of the iCord. Hmm, no. I positioned it with pins with hat on my styrofoam head, basted with scrap sock yarn and finally sewed it on from the inside of the beanie. All told that part of the finishing took just over three hours.

Comments: Maybe doing this in worsted weight yarn wasn't the best idea - the finished hat is really thick and heavy. So thick, in fact, that the hat retains its shape without support! It's wearable, and it's thick enough to prevent head injury if you were to fall on ice or something. I'm making another Brain hat in Sport yarn to see how that looks and feels. And this time I'm using the Embellish Knit to crank all that iCord!

It's a funny project and it is pretty cool looking, but it looks absolutely ridiculous when worn. At least it does when Gavin wears it. He was kind enough to model the hat for photos when he got home from working a night shift last night, so it's mean of me to make fun. Maybe on a person with long hair framing their face below the hat it might look better? Oh well, I think he'll probably wear it anyway just because it's so odd looking.

Today's Finished Object Friday over at Tami's Amis. Please click through the link (I'll link as soon as Tami posts) to see everyone else's show and tell. Why is it that short weeks with holiday Mondays always seem so long? Phew, the weekend's almost here!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

One thing about these brain hats - you need a lot of iCord. So much iCord. I started my first hat in worsted weight yarn, but I'm still worried about how much it's going to weigh once all the iCord is affixed to the beanie. So I've started a second Brain Hat in a sport weight yarn, but as you can imagine, with finer iCord you need MORE iCord. So much iCord. I can just hardly wait to see what's involved in sewing all that iCord to the beanies. My styrofoam head is ready for the pinning and I'm contemplating affixing the iCord with hemming adhesive so that I can keep it in position more easily while I sew it. I'll let you know how that works next week. If I can figure a way to do these that isn't painful, I'm confident they'd be a big seller at the craft show.

At the same time, I'm knitting up a fourth gnome. This little project has been really helpful for using up scraps of DK weight yarn. On this gnome I've used the last of some leftover Berroco Vintage in the mittens, and I'm using some leftover baby alpaca in the boots. Now that I'm knitting them in the round, I can start and finish a gnome in about two days. And the finishing is so easy now. How many softie patterns can you find with absolutely no embroidery?!

This week I also want to finish my Vorticity socks. So lots of knitting and lots of finishing. It's Work-in-Progress Wednesday over at Tami's Amis - go have a look! See you again Friday!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Vorticity 3

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

The first sock weighs 52 grams.

The remaining yarn weighs 52 grams.

This game of 'yarn chicken' is ON !

Friday, October 18, 2013

Finished Object Friday: Brother Gnome

Pattern: Jultomtar & Teeny Tomten by Alan Dart

Yarn: SRK Northern Sport and some fun fur

Needle Size: US 2 (2.75 mm)

Modifications: After knitting a first gnome (the blue one in the background) as written - knit flat and seamed - a few weeks ago, I determined to convert as much as possible to knit in the round. In this second gnome (the green one in the foreground), the head and body are knit entirely in the round, as are the hat and nose. For the feet and legs, I knit the feet as tubes in the round and then added an afterthought leg. The arms were knit in the round but the mitten hands were knit flat and seamed. Also, following tips from the project notes of other Ravelers, the beard was knit with Fun Fur held double.


Well, that was waaaay easier. Finishing took about a half hour and was easy peasy. This pattern should definitely be knit in the round as much as possible. I still have to add the twirl to the top of his hat, but it's a messy business - twisting and pinning, and spraying with Stiffen Stuff - so I'm gonna wait until I've got a few more gnomes ready and do them all at once.

Holding the Fun Fur double for the beard was painful, and the resulting beard isn't as supple as the original one. Of course, the Fun Fur I'm using isn't the one the pattern calls for - so that might be the difference - but this particular mod wasn't worthwhile for me.

For my feet I increased to 24 sts, but my feet came out pretty chunky. Next time I'll stop increasing at 18sts. Otherwise, the legs worked out perfectly. Also, this time round I used less stuffing at the top of the legs, so they're a bit floppier. He still sits fine, but now his legs straighten out to dangle below him when you pick him up. I think that's better.

The pattern designer makes particular mention that the pattern as written includes additional stitches which will be taken up with mattress stitching. Based on that I expected gnome no2 to finish larger than gnome no1, but not so. The second gnome is actually shorter. Maybe that's because my row gauge is so much tighter when just knitting in the round, compared to knitting and purling back and forth? Weird, huh?

Well that's it for me today. I'll be knitting a few more gnomes over the next few weeks; that is, when I'm not making Christmas soaps, which seems to be my new obsession. It's a sunny autumn Friday - have a great one. And make sure to check out all the other finished awesomeness at Tami's Amis!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Vorticity 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

The plan was to show you a finished sock. With 40 sts remaining in the round while working the toe decreases it occurred to me that the foot looked a bit short. Maybe I should try it on? Yes, it was short ... quite a bit short ... a lot short even. Nothing to do but to rip back and add another pattern repeat to the foot. At least I hadn't finished the sock - after all, ripping out after grafting and after weaving in ends is considerably more painful.

The first sock fits perfectly, but the credit for that goes to the project notes from other Ravellers. Many noted that the sock came out too big on the suggested 2.5 mm needles so I opted to shift down one size to knit the leg on 2.25mm needles and then shift down one more size starting at the heel turn to work the foot on 2.0mm needles. That's done the trick!

It's Thanksgiving here in Canada. Gavin is sick so we're having a quiet, stay at home weekend for the most part. Maybe I can finish up sock one and get a start on sock two?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Vorticity 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

Tuesday - the first day of October, and the first day I could cast on Vorticity socks for the Socktopus KAL on Ravelry. So you know what I was doing at work on Tuesday; besides working, that is.

The pattern is tricky for two reasons - the stitch count per round changes depending on where you are in the repeat, and in two places the end of round moves. Lots of people have been thrown off. There has been quite an active discussion going on in the Ravelry group, with more than one member expressing confusion and frustration. Once you figure out how it works, the pattern's pretty simple and it works up quickly. I've finished three repeats of the leg - although I took the photo after two repeats - and have just 19 more rounds before I start the heel.

The yarn I'm using is from Wandering Cat Yarns - Twisted Top Cat MCN in a colourway called "Tidal". So far the subtle variegation is working up beautifully. I couldn't be more pleased. I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating: there's a Back to Socks KAL going on over at Wandering Cat Yarns on Ravelry... any pair of socks completed by October 31st with Wandering Cat Yarns  and posted in the FO thread on Ravelry gives you an entry and a chance to win a surprise yarn pack. Last year I won a yarn pack and it was awesome!

Friday, October 4, 2013

FO Friday: Yuletide Gnome

Pattern: Jultomtar & Teeny Tomten by Alan Dart

Yarn: SRK Northern Sport and some fun fur

Needle Size: US 2 (2.75 mm)

Modifications: None

Comments: I've knit the smallest size of the Jultomtar pattern, which is plenty big enough. I might give Teeny Tomten a whirl just to see if I like the tinier iteration. About half my gnome's height is hat though, so it's a bit deceiving.

The pattern - every single little piece - is written to be knit flat and seamed. So that's what I did - because I tend to think that the designers know something I don't and I should do it the way I'm supposed to make sure of how it all goes together before I start redesigning it - but I'm shaking my head about it now. It's just ridiculous. Some people do go overboard converting things to knit in the round just to avoid the tiniest bit of seaming, but for crying out loud, this pattern goes too far with its determination to knit everything on straights. Working the pattern as written creates as much finishing as there was knitting; never mind that mattress-stitching a seam up the long and winding point of his hat was painful. Why?!?

I plan to cast on a companion gnome today, and this time I will convert everything to knit in the round ... and then we'll see! As well, in project notes from other Ravelers there is a repeated suggestion to hold the fun fur double for a lusher beard. Maybe I'll try that too for good measure. What's one more mod on top of all the mods I've got planned?

It's Friday - a cool and rainy Friday here in Toronto - so you know the drill. Click the link to Tami's Amis and check out the link list there for all kinds of awesome finished projects. It's sOcktober, so I'll bet there are socks, and maybe some Christmas craft ideas too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

October already! Uh oh. Christmas is coming at us fast! The only positive thing about the start of the new month is the start of the KAL for Vorticity socks. When I joined the Socktopus KAL on Ravelry this was one of the patterns that really caught my eye.

At first glance the pattern looked tricky, an impression that was reinforced by big, long charts, but things are much simpler than they appear. The real trick to these socks is keeping track when the end of round shifts - twice within each repeat. Other than that it's pretty easy going. The shifting column of eyelets make it a snap to read your knitting and keep track of the rows without paying much attention. Feels like it's going to be pretty stretchy too.

The yarn is Twisted Top Cat - an MCN with additional twist which should make it the perfect sock yarn. It's definitely a pleasure to knit. The added twist makes it less soft and squishy than the usual MCN, but it should result in a more durable sock, and I'm all for that. The variegation looked pretty subtle in the skein but I'm totally loving how it's knitting up. Drat, I really should have snapped up that second skein, but it's too late now. Somebody already got to it!

I'm double-dipping on KALs with this sock. At the same time as I'm knitting it for the Socktopus KAL, I'm also entering it in the Back To Socks KAL over at the Wandering Cat Yarns group on Ravelry. It feels a little like cheating.  What do you think?

Of course it's Work-in-Progress Wednesday over at Tami's Amis. I've missed the last few, so I'm really looking forward to checking the links there to see what everyone else has been up to!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

FO: BFF Socks

Pattern: BFF Socks by Cookie A. from Knit. Sock. Love.

Yarn: Top Cat MCN from Wandering Cat Yarns in "Sandalwood" colourway

Needle Size: US 1 (2.25 mm)

Modifications: After decreasing to 40 sts at the toes, I worked every round as a decrease round to 24 sts and then grafted for rounder toes.

Comments: I've knit the second smallest size - cast on 64sts, increase to 80 sts for the leg - and they've come out a perfect smallish size. In fact, they can be stretched over medium or larger feet but I think the socks look nicer if the ribbing isn't pulled too widely apart. Amazing how the cables compact the fabric! At this size I've used 87 grams of yarn; if you're considering this pattern at a larger size make sure you've got the necessary yardage!

The pattern is pretty straight forward and made for some good mindless knitting through the last few stressful weeks, but there are some really clever increases and decreases hidden at the beginning and end of each column of cables which make the transition from the pattern to plainer knitting flat and smooth. Very clever!

It may come as a surprise that I chose a cabled pattern after complaining about cables and socks just a few weeks ago - I'll admit I surprised myself - but I was yearning for a more tailored style sock. Besides cables aren't nearly as bad across 4 sts rather than 8 sts, and in a cashmere blend fingering weight yarn rather than a rustic sport weight yarn.

Linda tried on the first sock right after I turned the heel so I'm hoping I've measured correctly. If anything these might be just a little bit too long. Somehow it's hard for me to imagine that anyone really has feet that tiny! If they're too big I'm prepared to rip out the toes and rip back one pattern repeat on the insteps to restarting the toes sooner. But fingers crossed that I don't need to!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Year of Projects 3: waiting to start Vorticity

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

This time last week I was in Washington, wrapping up a four day getaway. We had the perfect weather for walking, so that's what we did. Besides, the driving looked crazy and parking seemed impossible, so walking was far the better option!

The National Mall is one monument after another, and one museum after another - we could have easily spent another couple of weeks to really see it thoroughly.

The National Holocaust Museum was amazing, sobering, moving and disturbing - don't miss it if you visit DC, although it's not suitable for children, or even teens I'd say. We were fortunate in our timing as the Museum is set to close Tuesday for five months while the curators return wooden barracks on loan from Auschwitz and replace them with barracks from Birkenau, which will be on permanent display. It's artifacts like these that contribute to the chilling visceral experience for museum visitors.

The Lincoln Memorial was astonishing in part for its sheer size. Sometimes things look bigger in photos and in movies, but in this case the reality far exceeded my expectations. I couldn't resist taking this picture of my sister dwarfed by the columns of the portico. Imagine Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps giving his "I have a dream ..." speech facing a sea of humanity surrounding the reflecting pool on the National Mall in 1963.

There's been some knitting in the past few days too. While waiting to cast on the next pattern in the Socktopus KAL  I decided to cast on a pair of BFF socks from Knit. Sock. Love. The yarn is Top Cat MCN in a colourway called "Sandalwood".  The pattern is basic ribs and cables - I needed something easy on my head because I've been crazy busy and stressed over the last while - but the magic is in clever increases and decreases when transitioning from plain stockinette or rib into and out of cables. Those increases and decreases are just the perfect thing to avoid any puffiness or bunching of the fabric. I'm at the heel flap of sock two and I'm hoping to finish these up by Tuesday, when I can finally cast on Vorticity!

I should also mention, there's a Back to Socks KAL going on over at Wandering Cat Yarns on Ravelry... any pair of socks completed by October 31st with Wandering Cat Yarns  and posted in the FO thread on Ravelry gives you an entry and a chance to win a surprise yarn pack. I won a yarn pack last year and it was awesome!

Now I've got to run through the shower and get organized. A new Michael's has opened just up the street, and Shirley and I are going to check it out. Won't it be nice to have a Michael's close by? And potentially expensive! Oh dear!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

The Brain Hat pattern by Alana Noritake makes me giggle every time I look at. Seriously, I think every one of my nieces and nephews needs one of these. And now that I've started, some coworkers have expressed interest as well.

The pattern is written for fingering weight yarn but in the interest of using stash yarns I'm producing my first version from an Aran yarn. Of course that means a bunch of modifications.

The hat is a pretty standard plain beanie and then the brain tissue is created by nearly endless amounts of iCord sewn in folding and looping patterns. So far I've knit 10 feet of iCord. Will it be enough for the left hemisphere? Probably not. Once I get it all pinned into place I'll know how much more to knit, so that I can bind off and start on the iCord for the right hemisphere.

I'm not 100 percent sure that heavier weight yarn will turn out to be practical. It might just be the heaviest and thickest hat ever when I'm done.  Time will tell! It'd sure be nice if it works; I've got lots more of this yarn in grey and a pinky-grey to knit up into brain tissue. If it comes down to it, I also have some sport weight acrylic in my stash that may work. Maybe that's something to try next?

It's Work-in-Progress Wednesday, and I'll be linking up with the gang at Tami's Amis (no link posted yet). Why not take some time, click through the links and prepare to be amazed?!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Crowley 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

As you might expect, a pair of socks knit with thick wool on 2.75mm needles doesn't take much time at all... less than two weeks in fact. Although, when the temperatures starting dropping to well below seasonal I was in a bit of hurry to finish them and get them onto my feet.

When I visited Cottage Craft almost four years ago, a pair of socks exactly like these were what I envisioned from this Cottage Craft 1ply wool yarn. The perfect boot socks! As soon as I saw the Crowley pattern I knew what my yarn choice was going to be. The colourway is called "Spruce Green" - be still my Canadian heart - and the yarn base is from Briggs & Little processed from fleeces from mostly Quebec sheep farms. Oh Canada!

Experts will tell you that 1ply wool is not a good choice for socks - more plys mean more durability - and besides these will likely felt. It's okay though; I'm planning to take good care of these by hand washing and laying flat to dry and never, ever wearing them in stocking feet around the house. Hopefully that will keep them in good shape for years to come.

Now that I've blocked them, the wool has relaxed across the cables somewhat and the socks are softer and less lumpy. But the pattern's still clear enough, right? I did have a look at the finished socks from other participants in the KAL - the pattern is really dramatic in smoother, traditional sock yarns. Que sera, sera.

Next on the KAL schedule is the pattern: Vorticity. I've got the perfect skein of Twisted Top Cat in a colourway called "Tidal" ready to go. Now I just have to wait patiently for October 1st, the first day of this next pattern in the KAL. I guess I'll have to find other things to knit or crochet over the next few weeks!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

It's not a bowling pin, although you'd be excused for thinking so. When it's done, it should look something like this. At least, I hope so.

Once again I'm using scraps from my stash to make up items for a Christmas Craft show. The grey is leftover from some fingerless gloves I made a couple of years ago. The white and blue yarns were bought by the bag at a yarn sale in 2011, specifically with the intention of Christmas crafting. And the eyelash yarn came into my possession as part of a prize lot from an online contest put together by another craft blogger. Looks like this is the year that I really make some progress working through my stash!

By the end of this week I hope to know two things: whether I can produce a little gnome as cute as those shown on the pattern photo, and, whether it's easy enough to make multiples gnomes feasible. Maybe I'll see you on Friday with those answers? That's my goal!

It's Work-in-Progress Wednesday; I hope to see you over at Tami's Amis to check out what the rest of the gang has been up to!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Crowley 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

When I chose this thickish, rustic one ply yarn from Cottage Craft in New Brunswick for these Crowley socks, I wasn't entirely sure. After all, they won't be machine washable, and besides one ply isn't very durable for socks. Unless I'm very careful they'll felt and/or develop holes. But they're exactly what I imagined when I bought this yarn  - I love them and I will be very careful with them! Hand wash all the way!

Earlier this week when I was working the cables in the leg of the first sock, I planned to write about how much I despise cables in socks ... fiddly, needle-breaking, yarn-eating, lumpy things ... but now that I'm onto the ribbed foot I've gotten over it. Mostly.

It is quite a striking sock I think; the pattern is strong enough to hold up even when worked in thick, rustic yarn. Have I said "thick" enough times in this post? Definitely boot socks. Considering the disappointingly NOT-waterproofness of my winter boots, a thick pair of wool socks might be just the thing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finished Object Friday: Welted Fingerless Gloves

Pattern: Welted Fingerless Gloves by Churchmouse Yarns & Teas

Yarn: Diamond Luxury Collection Baby Silk

Hook Size: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 6 (4 mm)

Modifications: To avoid curling at the finger opening I worked the second-to-last round through the back loops, then purled the final round before binding off knitwise.

Comments: Many years ago my Mom bought a single skein of two different colours of this yarn - just because it was so soft and luxurious - but since I inherited them I've been at a loss as to what to knit from them.  It's a silk and alpaca blend put up in 50 gram skeins; 145 yards isn't enough yardage for many projects. This pattern seemed the perfect answer. I can make a pair in each colour and possibly a third pair combining the leftovers of both.

The pattern is written in a small size, however that size is flexible enough to fit most hands. Even my gigantic hands fit, although the gloves are quite snug and I'd be tempted to add a few more stitches if they were for me. The pattern also suggests sewing a row of buttons at the outside top of the wrist on the welts to make a pretty little cuff. I don't have any suitable buttons, so I've left them off but I am now on the lookout for ten little pearl buttons to do the job.

It's Finished Object Friday over at Tami's Amis ... why not visit some of the links and enjoy the parade of awesome things that people all over the world have made this week?!

And by the way, I did launder that dark blue baby blanket I showed you a couple of weeks ago. It was knit from Berroco Vintage. After enclosing it in a lingerie bag I machine washed it in warm water and then tumbled dried it on low heat. Although I totally meant to take it out of the dryer while still damp, I forgot and it stayed in for the entire cycle. The blanket emerged looking perfect - no pilling, no felting, no shrinking. If anything it looked better than when it went in as the "blocking" seemed to have evened out the edges a bit. Phew! I'd happily buy that yarn again for baby items!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Hundred Acre Woods 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

I missed posting again last week ... the crazy busy-ness just won't quit. But at least this time I've got some knitting done! My Hundred Acre Wood socks are done and they are gorgeous.

The yarn is Djinni Sock from Dragonfly Fibers in a colourway called "Oberon". It's my first experience with this yarn, which I ordered to support one of the sponsors of the KAL that I'm taking part in. The yarn base is 80% merino + 10% cashmere + 10% nylon; it's classified as a "light fingering" but I'd disagree. The yarn is thicker than most sock yarn I come across; more of a heavy fingering I'd say. And since most of the socks in Socktopus are written for size 1 (2.25mm) and size 2 (2.5 mm) needles, the heavier weight is much appreciated.

The pattern is a lacy pattern reminiscent of leaves worked with simple decreases and yarn overs. The chart starts almost immediately from the toe and continues seamlessly from the foot to the leg until it flows into the ribbed cuff. It's very pretty and surprisingly stretchy. There are a lot of charts at first glance, but looking closer it's just one chart for the foot, another for the leg and one for the cuff. I thought this pattern was going to need my full attention, but after a couple of pattern repeats I didn't need to refer to the pattern and could take it along as travel knitting.

Many of the KAL participants found these socks worked up too large for their feet and since I've been finding that same thing throughout the book I decided to be pro-active. I deliberately chose the medium size (my feet are large all the way ... in fact if you look up big feet in the dictionary, there's a picture of my feet) and then went down a needle size. It worked, and I couldn't be more pleased.

I'm also very pleased with the gusset shaping on this sock. In the past I've had trouble estimating the correct point to start the gusset shaping for a well-fitted foot but the instructions from designer Alice Yu are very clear, and the fit is perfect.

At the end of the cuff I worked my modified version of Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. With toe-up socks you have to be very careful that the bind off is not too tight. I find that JSSBO is too loosey-goosey so I process every other stitch according to her method for a stretchy bind-off that's not too loose.

And here we are at the beginning of September. HEY! Where did summer go?! According to the KAL schedule today I can cast on the next pair of socks .... Crowley. I've dug deep into my stash to pull out the oldest skein of yarn I have. It's a rustic one ply 100% wool yarn that may or may not be suitable. I guess I'll cast on to see!

Friday, August 30, 2013

FO Friday: Craft Show Items

Pattern: Cat Paws Christmas Stocking by Michele Wilcox

Yarn: Loops & Threads Soft & Shiny

Hook Size: US H (5 mm)

Modifications: I stuffed my fish to make him 3D

Comments: When I saw this pattern, I thought this might be a good item for a Christmas Craft Show & Sale, along with the corresponding Dog Paws Christmas Stocking. I couldn't help but notice at the summer outdoor market how many shoppers were accompanied by dogs! And after crocheting up a test sample I still think so, in no small part because of how quick and easy it was. The pattern is extremely well written, with stitch counts everywhere you'd want them. The shaping is well done, the sewing up is easy and the finished project looks exactly like the pattern photo. Not often you can say that!

Although I made my stocking exactly as written, I may replace the big fish with three little fish. I'm not sure though - that big red fish is growing on me.  Let's defer that decision until after a first dog paw stocking is made; it's dog bone decoration is similarly sized.

Pattern: Jerry the Musical Monkey by Rebecca Danger

Yarn: Cascade Heritage Sock

Hook Size: US 1 (2.25 mm)

Modifications: Knit at smaller size using miniaturizing mods courtesy of mostlymunchies. With this yarn and these needles he ended up 5" tall from top of head to bottom of feet. Switched yarn colours in body and mouth to mimic sock monkey colours.

As I was knitting the arms I thought they were too short so I added several rows. Now he has crazy long arms! When will I ever learn to follow directions?!

Comments: Another pattern test for the upcoming Christmas Craft Show & Sale. Considering it was knit and finished in a couple of days without much effort, and considering everyone who sees him, wants him, I think he's a success. It's a pretty good way to use up sock yarn leftovers.

It's the Friday before a long weekend - aren't those the best?! Chances are work will be very quiet today. I might even be able to get a good start on that dog paw stocking! What are you up to? I hope you'll join me over at Tami's Amis to see more finished objects!

Friday, August 23, 2013

FO Friday: Surprise Baby Blanket

Pattern: Surprise by Cinzia New York

Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK

Needle Size: US 8 (5 mm)

Modifications: I used a fairly lightweight yarn on biggish needles for a very drapey blanket... almost a wrap, really. I added three repeats to the width and then knit the chart 48 times until the yarn was gone. Another game of Yarn Chicken won: less than 2 yards left.

Comments: At the beginning of June I purchased a half dozen skeins of Berroco Vintage DK with the idea of working a border on some crocheted hexagons to finish one blanket and to make a second blanket with the leftovers of that border colour. That worked out better than I could have hoped. This second blanket has worked up at 36" x 48" - a really nice, generously sized blanket.

The pattern is very simple - mock cable and traveling eyelets. It works up very quickly and yields a very beautiful result. I started and finished mine in about two and half weeks. I'd definitely consider this pattern again for another baby blanket. Typically I can knit the first half of a baby blanket enthusiastically but then entirely run out of steam for the second half. This blanket was on and off the needles before I even had a chance to get tired of it. Perfect!

The yarn is labelled as "Machine wash and lay flat to dry". This weekend I'm going to try laundering it according to those directions to make sure it's durable enough for everyday use. Well actually I also intend to tumble dry on low until it's just damp! I picked up a delicates bag for in the washer/dryer with the hope that separating it that way will keep it from pilling during the agitation. If necessary, I'll gift a delicates bag along with the blanket. My feeling is that I'd rather know how well it launders before I give it away. I'd hate to hand it over to a new Mom only to find out it was wrecked at the first washing. We'd both feel badly about that.

The Berroco Vintage is a really lovely yarn to work with. It's blissfully soft, not too splitty and comes in a gorgeous range of colours. If the laundering experiment works out, I'll definitely buy more for children's items like this. Fingers crossed!

Happy Friday everyone. And you know the drill - go check out all the great things on this Finished Object Friday over at Tami's Amis!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Hundred Acre Woods 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

I missed posting last week - sorry - but things were so hectic that I can't actually believe it's been a week and a half since I've even looked at my blog. One more sign that I've been busy? Almost no knitting done. Seriously! That's what you get when you start thinking you're ahead of the game, right?

In all that time I've managed to finish the first sock of my Hundred Acre Wood pair. Although I've cast on sock two, it's still at the toe so there's no point in showing you that. At least now I can rest assured that switching down to a smaller needle and knitting the medium size is going to work for me. There are lots of participants in the KAL struggling to get these socks to fit! Thank goodness mine are working out fine.

When I started I was concerned that this colourway of Dragonfly Fibers sock yarn might be too busy for the pattern, but I needn't have been. It's fine I think. More than fine, really ... it's all my favourite colours with cashmere!

On top of working morning, noon and night, I'm also trying to get a quilt face finished. Next weekend I'll see my SIL at a family function and I'd dearly love to hand it off to her for longarm quilting ahead of the Christmas rush. If I get it done, I'll post a pic next week. It's a braided scrap quilt. With six braids done, and with each braid finishing at 7" wide, and with a plan for three borders totalling 8" on each side of the centre panel, I figure I need another 3-4 braids to make a reasonable size quilt. I could add sashing between the braids to widen it, but I'm hoping not to. I really like the look of the braids butting up to each other. Wish me luck!