Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

This sock pattern - Spring Shoots - has very unusual construction. The foot is knit as a closed tube, and then a row is cut open at the midline of the ankle to add an "afterthought leg". It's Cat Bordhi's idea, and you can find out more in her Houdini Socks pattern from the Twist Collective.

I've never tried it before so I was excited to see it as part of the Socktopus KAL on Ravelry. Frankly the idea of cutting into my knitting scares me - so much can go wrong. But it's actually pretty easy when you follow the step-by-step directions.

The first step is to knit a closed tube for the foot of the sock. At the point where the midline of your ankle will fall string a lifeline through the instep stitches. Then knit two rounds and string another one. The knit row between the two lifelines is where you cut. Before you get your scissors out, grab some smaller needles and use the lifelines to pick up the stitches on each side including a couple of stitches on either side of the lifeline to really anchor the cut ends.

Then snip a stitch near the centre of the instep stitches and unravel that row from one end of the lifelines to the other. Hint: a light coloured working yarn and a dark coloured waste yarn for the lifelines makes it a lot easier to see what you're doing. Once you've unravelled, then you can rearrange the stitches and start knitting the leg. It looks odd at first, but it works. My sock fits just fine and look at the cool "star heel" I've got!

It's always fun to learn a new technique but I doubt this is something I'll do regularly. After all, I don't really see an advantage to this construction method compared to a traditionally constructed sock. One big disadvantage is that it creates six ends to weave in per sock rather than two.

That's my show and tell for today. Lot's more to see over at Tami's Amis for Work-in-Progress Wednesday! That's where I'm headed now; want to come along and see for yourself?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Spring Shoots 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

My Caretta Caretta socks have been done for days - I just haven't had a chance to blog them. Because I'm knitting for a KAL, these are knit without any modifications. Seems mods can disqualify you for prize consideration! The KAL for this pattern ends on July 30th; that's mission accomplished.

The yarn is Araucania Ranco Multy and the colours are just gorgeous. Never a worry about pooling and it knits up like a dream. It's maybe a bit busy for the pattern, but not too much. It's not superwash though; hand wash and lay flat for these socks!

The lace pattern is very pretty in this sock, and it's quite stretchy as well which is always a good thing for a well-fitted sock. The ribbing of the cuffs flows nicely into the lace pattern which, in turn, flows nicely into the ribbing of the toe area. And the pattern is well written and clearly charted. My only knock on this pattern would be that the photography for the book isn't very good. In some cases the socks don't even fit the model and in the close-up of these finished socks the nearest sock is not even in focus making the pattern details difficult to see.

Now, about the beads ... maybe shinier beads would add more bling to these socks? My matte textured matchy-matchy beads haven't really been worth the effort. They aren't big enough to make a difference to the comfort of the sock, but if you were to continue the beads past the leg and then wear the socks in shoes it might be a different story. Just the thought of a beaded instep makes me cringe.

The KAL for the next pattern in the book - Spring Shoots - began at the beginning of July and runs through to the end of August. This pattern involves an afterthought leg; if I'm going to cut my knitting I want a light and bright coloured yarn to see the stitches clearly. The yarn is Socktopus Sokkusu Original (the yarn recommended in the pattern!) in a colourway called "Slice of Orange". It's bright alright! Quite a departure from my usual colour choices. And very nice to work with - soft, non-splitty and not overly twisted.

After reviewing the notes of other Ravelers, I've decided to knit the medium size rather than the large, and to step down one needle size to avoid socks that are too large. The plan is to knit the closed tube for each foot before sitting down to cut the openings for the leg. The gusset increases begin a few inches in from the toe, but for my huge feet I'd probably have been better off starting them further along in the foot. We'll see. One thing I'm quite excited about is that I can knit as many plain rows after the cut line on the heel side of the ankle as I wish before starting the heel decreases - I have a very high instep and pointy heels, so I'm guessing that adding some ease here is going to really help the fit.

Now, to judge the length of the foot, designer Alice Yu instructs:

Cont until work measures the span of your hand from the tip of your longest finger to the wrist line. This corresponds for most people to the length of the foot from the top of the toes to the midline of the ankle.

Try it! It holds true for me and Gavin. Does it work on you too?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Caretta Caretta 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

It feels like I'm finally starting to catch up. My first sock for Caretta Caretta is off the needles, and I'm well into the leg of the second sock. Barring anything unexpected, the pair should be finished by the end of the week.

When I pre-strung the beads for the first sock, I thought I'd just string lots and not worry about counting them. Boy did I regret that little shortcut when I was shunting the hundred or so extra beads along the working yarn through the heel, across the instep and down the foot of sock one! I've started sock two with exactly 120 beads and by the end of the leg every bead will have been incorporated. That's a much better plan. Even so, I'm still not a fan of pre-stringing beads - I doubt I'll do that again.

Fortunately the beads do not entirely disappear into the sock. In fact, they catch the light nicely when worn and are more obvious when the leg pattern is stretched out a bit. That being said a shinier, lighter coloured bead would have been a better choice for a yarn with this much variegation. Considering what a nuisance it was to string them and how fiddly it was to position them within the pattern, you want them to make more of a statement than this!

The same 3x1 ribbing used in the cuff is repeated on top of the toe area. I had my doubts about a patterned toe, but it's a pretty plain pattern and it's kinda cute. I'd do that again.

The next pattern in line is Spring Shoots. The foot is knit as a closed tube and then you slice open your knitting to add an "afterthought leg" as inspired by Cat Bordhi. I'm trying to decide about a yarn for this  - something light coloured so that I can see my stitches easily when cutting and picking up stitches and something with subtle variegation so that the pattern shines through. I'd also like to use a yarn from one of the many sponsors of the KAL. Hmmm, what to pick?! I guess we'll find out next week!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Finished Object Friday

Pattern: Tea Cosy by Yasmin

Yarn: Loops & Threads Soft and Shiny

Needle Size: US 7 (4.5 mm)

Modifications: I made a pompom in place of the crocheted decorative topper.

Comments: In fact I don't own a teapot; the tea cosy was made at Linda's request. For the Finished Object Photo I tried the cosy on a teapot in the kitchenwares department of my local Home Outfitters. Fortunately the staff were too busy discounting summer sale items to pay me any attention.

The pattern called for Caron Simply Soft, but I didn't like the selection of colours available at Michaels. Linda mentioned that her kitchen was burgundy and black and her teapot was white, so I thought some light neutrals would be best. Cream and butter colours in the store brand, Loops & Threads Soft and Shiny, were my final choice. Knitting the yarn was unpleasant - it's splitty and it's constantly shedding fluff. I won't buy that again.

To create the cosy, columns of two different colours are knit into pleats with short floats. It's a really good insulator, I'd imagine, but it wasn't very fun to knit. It's counterintuitive to be constantly snugging up those floats. Add to that the fact that my fingers wanted to knit stockinette rather than garter stitch, and it felt like I was fighting myself through the entire knit. Thank goodness it's done!

That's my FO for this finished object Friday. See you at Tami's Amis where there's lots to see in all the links from other crafters!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

This week I'm concentrating on my second Shark Week Sock. It's an unusual pattern - sock two is an entirely different pattern than sock one. Sock one showed a shark swallowing a leg from the bottom up; that is, the shark's jaws were encircling the calf and the tail was at the wearer's toes. For sock two, the tail is at the calf, and a victim foot emerges from the jaws that encircle the instep... which necessitates about 75 yards of flesh-coloured yarn.

Rather than purchase another skein of sock yarn to complete these sock - goodness knows with two skeins already and a pricey pattern I've already spent enough - I decided to dye my own. A couple of months ago I took a short course in dyeing yarns with Kool-Aid and Wilton Icing colours, and figured I could come up with something workable. And then someone suggested I use tea. Of course, tea! That was easy enough, cost me almost nothing and yielded a very suitable colour.

Using the niddy noddy Gavin made me from these instructions, I wound off about 80 yards of the white sock yarn, tied off my mini-skein, dampened it and then steeped it in strong tea for about 15 minutes. It dried a little lighter than planned, but it's still a good colour; probably better than I would have found at my LYS and definitely more economical.

The second sock starts with a provisional crochet cast - the tail and flukes are added later by working back and forth on two needles on either side of the leg. After knitting a few inches of leg, I'm working shadow-wrapped short rows (using the tutorial found here) to shape the gap for the underbelly, with increases to add ease at the instep. At the same time I'm working three columns of purl stitches; each forms the base for a dorsal or pectoral fin to be added later. Did I mention that there's a lot going on with this sock?

By far this is the most challenging sock pattern I've ever knit. The construction is extremely unusual, perhaps because the designer has approached the sock design in an entirely different way than most. Most sock designs follow a common formula, but here the designer seems to have drawn a concept sock and then figured out how to create it. Designer Lisa Grossman must have awesome knitting skills, because, with this pattern, we're doing things I didn't even know were possible. I'm learning new techniques at every turn. Definitely not TV knitting!

Wow, thanks for reading this far! To see what lots of other people are knitting and crafting, have a peak through the links at Tami's Amis ... after all, it IS work-in-progress Wednesday!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Caretta Caretta 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

Last week was a tough one filled with flooding, a couple of days off work due to power failures, another day off work for a family emergency and lots of stress. A Totally Vanilla sock pattern was the perfect project to keep me sane through it ... Keep Calm and Knit On, right? No surprise than that the second sock was finished up by Thursday and a FO picture posted on Friday.

I'm hoping for a quieter week this week; I'll need it to knit these beaded socks. Caretta Caretta is the next pattern for the Ravelry KAL from Socktopus. I'm still a bit behind on the KAL. To qualify for prizes I need to finish this pair before the end of the month. I think I can!

It's my first attempt at beads in my knitting and so far I'm not too excited about it. I've followed the instructions and pre-strung the beads on the yarn, but boy is that a nuisance! Every time you tug a length of yarn free from the ball you have to push all the beads along away from your knitting. That's getting old in a hurry. Next time I bead something I'll try placing them with a crochet hook without pre-stringing.

And then there's the fiddly bit about getting the beads to stay exactly where you put them when you knit the next round after placing the beads. I've already decided to adopt the strategy noted by so many Ravelers before me - just beading the leg repeats, omitting beads at the instep and down the foot.

It's hard to see the beads in my photo, isn't it? That's another thing; I went too subtle and too matchy-matchy in my bead choice. A lighter, brighter, shinier bead would pop more. Not to worry though, I think the beads will become more obvious with blocking and wear. If not, so be it. My bead choice was limited because my local bead store is closing at the end of the month and their selection was pretty thin after weeks of an "Everything 60% off Sale". The pattern called for size 8 seed beads, but there were none left, so I'm using slightly bigger size 6 seed beads. I think this Araucania Ranco Multy yarn is thick and lofty enough for the bigger bead size.

The yarn was a birthday gift a couple of years ago, and I think it's just perfect for this pattern. It's a lovely hand wash, lay flat to dry kind of yarn, so the beads are perfectly safe with this kind of handling. Also the pattern is written for US 1-1/2 (2.5mm) needles - although I'm using 2.25mm - so I wanted a thicker fingering from my stash.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Finished Object Friday

Pattern: Totally Vanilla by Alice Yu

Yarn: Cricket Cove Handpainted Fingering in "Rainbow" colourway

Needle Size: US 0 (2 mm)

Modifications: None.

Comments: This sock pattern takes the knitter through the steps of knitting a sock for perfect fit. Believe it or not, I did knit a gauge swatch for them! Following directions and based on the math I was walked through I cast on 64 sts - much less than my usual 68-72 sts on size 0 needles. The fit is really good, although I don't think I'd risk anything but handwash and lay flat to dry with these. Still it's been a good exercise for me. Seems I'll be making my socks a bit narrower from this day forward.

The yarn is a rustic, slubby heavy fingering or light sport weight wool from Cricket Cove. Recalling my conversation with the shop owner in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, I think the base is from Briggs and Little. The colourway has pooled throughout these socks, but after several false starts with this yarn and other patterns, I expected it. I'm just grateful that the pools of yellow/orange aren't exclusively on one side of the sock or the other. There's also nothing very matchy about this pair. Life's been so busy and my brain is so full that I just haven't had the energy to fight with the yarn. And as it turns out, the yarn did just fine without my interference.

That's it from me on this finished object Friday. I'm linking up with Tami's Amis again today, and as soon as I hit "Publish" I'm headed there to read through the links. There's a mystery amigurumi CAL wrapping up today and I can't wait to see what animal is revealed:)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

After a week away, and after figuring out how to load the 55 page pattern on to my Kobo Vox eReader, I'm finally making some progress on my Shark Week Socks. As you can see sock #1 is almost done – it just needs pectoral fins, gills and some aggressive blocking. Sock #2 is an entirely different sock for which I hope to cast on the cuff tomorrow. And once both socks are done, there are still some remora to knit. There's a lot going on with this pattern :)

These socks are by special request of a friend who works at the local surf shop. My original thought was that these were essentially "art for the feet" and perhaps not so wearable, but after knitting this far on sock one, I'll admit to being surprised and impressed at how comfy it is. 

In the upper right are the two sides of my Tea Cosy. I almost finished this while I was away too, but I wasn't happy with my finishing and ripped it out. Hopefully by the end of the week I find the energy to do it again. In the pattern instructions the cosy finishes with a crocheted flower, but I'm considering a big pompom instead. What do you think?

There's another pair of socks I haven't shown, since I fully intend to finish them in time for a FO Friday post. This week has been good for knitting - after Monday evening's flooding there's been no hydro at my work since. Word is they hope to have power restored this morning, so I'd better get showered and go see what's up! Have a great Wednesday and go spend some time delving through the links at Tami's Amis!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Totally Vanilla 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

Sorry for my absence in blogland - I've been away and am still catching up on things! Happily I did manage to get a start on my first project from Socktopus - Totally Vanilla Socks. As the name implies these are very simple stockinette socks; what makes it interesting is that designer Alice Yu walks you through the steps of sizing your socks for a perfect fit. I've measured my feet, knit a swatch to calculate my gauge and cast on 64 stitches. This primary stitch count strikes me as too low for size 0 (2mm) needles, but maybe I'll be proved wrong!

For this pattern I'm using the oldest yarn in my stash. In August of 2008, I visited a little yarn store outside of Moncton New Brunswick and bought two skeins of hand-painted sock yarn - this one and a skein of Fleece Artist. This Cricket Cove yarn is a rustic, slubby fingering yarn that's been hand-painted in a rainbow colourway. And to date it has totally defied every pattern I've tried with it. No idea how many times I've frogged it, but this time there's no looking back. After all, nothing more forgiving of busy yarn than a vanilla sock pattern, right?

It's early days yet in my Year of Projects, but so far I couldn't be more pleased with the book I've selected. In this first pattern I'm working through sizing my sock to my foot, the next pattern incorporates beads, and the pattern after that has steeks! That should keep it interesting!