Saturday, June 28, 2014

Year of Projects 3: Year End Wrap Up

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalla • 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

Hard to believe that we've come to the end of another Year of Projects. And although it's the end of that KAL, three sock patterns remain for the Socktopus KAL. I'll add them to the beginning of my next Year of Projects before moving onto another book.

It's nice to review the past year of projects; to make it easier, I've put together an animated GIF showing each finished pair. For the three to-be-knit patterns I've allocated stash yarn and shown that in place of a FO photo. If you're wondering, I've decided on Sokkusu O yarn in "Madder" colourway for Rumpled, Super Cash Sock in "Cocoa Dusted Truffle" colourway for Om Shanti and Twisted House Cat in "Frog Prince" for Farmer McGregor.

Through the year, readers have commented about my determination to knit every pattern, whether I like it or not. So far, that determination has served me well. In many cases the patterns I don't like before starting, I like better after finishing. Often, those patterns also introduce me to unfamiliar techniques and new heel constructions. And sometimes the socks I don't like are sought after by others. Each to his own. My conclusion is that knitting every pattern makes me a better knitter.

I've also found the KAL experience to be very positive. Having deadlines and being accountable keeps me on track and seems to be the cure for both Startitis and Second Sock Syndrome. Knitting along puts me in a pool of other knitters who can give helpful tips, supportive encouragement and sometimes, constructive criticism. And there's nothing wrong with winding up with more than a dozen pairs of gorgeous hand knit socks! Some to keep and some to give away.

We're headed to a cottage up at Stoney Lake for a bit, so I'm posting this update a day early. I've already packed my knitting so there's sure to be a good update when I get back. Have a great weekend one and all! Happy Canada Day to my countryfolk and Happy 4th of July to my friends south of the border.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Year of Projects 3: V Junkie 03

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalla • 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 thought it'd be a finished pair of socks that I'd be showing you today, but the socks didn't get much love this week. I'm just at the point where the instep pattern starts to narrow on this V Junkie pattern. Not too long now; in fact I expect to finish this pair by sometime tomorrow.

Most of today has been spent in the garden. Slowly but surely I'm clearing out the dead wood leftover from a particularly difficult winter. About 20% of my Barberry bush died off, so I snipped out the dead branches and pruned back the rest to reshape it. Three Yucca plants also didn't make it, so they've been removed. That'll leave space for new growth around the remaining two. Both clematis were wiped out so I dug them out and removed the dead wood from the trellises on the back fence. Almost all of the English Ivy was toast, so that's also been cut back severely, with the dead wood removed from the trellises. The fence looks very bare right now; hopefully the ivy that remains will grow aggressively.

It's not all bad news in the garden though. I feared that I had lost my Japanese Maple, but after a slow start it's about 50% covered in leaves. I'll see how well it does over the summer and then decide if I need to prune out any branches in the fall. And then there's my Spindle Tree. For the last few years I've been fighting an infestation of small black leaf eating bugs ... fighting and losing. I was already tentatively planning to remove it and replace it with something else, but it looks like the hard winter was good for something: the tree survived but the infesting bugs did not!

I'll leave you with a photo of one of the branches of my Chinese Flowering Dogwood tree. This tree has been awesome from day one. It is absolutely covered in blossoms this year. The blossoms are a few weeks later this year because of the never-ending winter and the colder than normal spring, but it's a showstopper these days. Happy summer everyone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

FO: Vanellope Latte Socks

Vanilla Latte Socks by Virginia Rose-Jeanes

Yarn: Twinkle Cat in "Vanellope Von Schweetz"

Needles Size: US 00 (1.75 mm)

Modifications: Changed heel construction to an afterthought heel to keep the stripes perfect

Comments: You may have noticed the name of this yarn colourway - Vanellope Von Schweetz - it's named for a character in Disney's Wreck-It Ralph! It's a self-striping yarn that knits up to match Vanellope's own socks. So cute!

The yarn also has 5% stellina content so it twinkles. This is my first experience with stellina and it's been pretty positive. I've made quilts from metallic fabrics which look nice but are not very soft. With this yarn, there isn't a huge amount of metallic content so the softness of the merino is relatively unaffected. Sometimes you can feel a kind of tinsel-y feeling on your needles as you're knitting but for the most part, the stellina is almost undetectable. But my goodness does it twinkle! There's no missing that!

For a self-striping yarn I generally prefer a fairly vanilla sock, and this Vanilla Latte pattern was just the ticket. A bit tedious to knit however; miles and miles of broken rib. They're very nice to look at though. When Jane unwrapped them at her birthday supper she exclaimed that these must be the most gorgeous socks I had ever knit! If you've seen Jane's Etsy Store - Christmas is Magical - you'll quickly realize that Jane is a huge fan of glitter and sparkle, so when I saw the yarn I knew who was meant to have these socks.

These socks were actually finished almost two months ago, but Jane often reads my blog, so they've been a secret until now. I also need to send a big thank you to the ladies at Wandering Cat Yarn. As soon as I mentioned on Ravelry that I wanted some natural colour twinkle cat yarn for the afterthought heels and toes, they were all over it. Rhonda had a package in the mail to me within days. How awesome is that?!

Happy Friday everyone! We've got beautiful sunshine and it looks like a gorgeous weekend ahead. I'm hoping to get out on my Paddle Board for sure!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Year of Projects 3: V Junkie 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalla • 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've made good progress this week on this V Junkie pattern - the first sock is done, and I'm two-thirds of the way on the second sock. I still don't love this sock pattern, but I'm more ambivalent about it than when I started. The finished sock looks much more attractive when worn so that's good. And I do like the heel. It's a short row wrap and turn heel worked in garter stitch, and it has a rustic look that I find really appealing. It feels a bit mismatched on this sock, to my way of thinking, but I like it.

This Elann A-Series S01 yarn in Delft Blue is also much nicer than the same yarn in the bleached oak colourway that I used for the last pair of socks. It's softer, more evenly dyed and less splitty. You wouldn't even think they were the same base! If only you could be sure it's all like this batch, it'd be a tremendous deal for heavy fingering superwash/nylon sock yarn at $2.50 per 50 gram ball. It might still be worth the risk. I'm going to finish these socks, wash and wear them a few times, and then decide whether this really is an economical work horse sock yarn.

Now, I'd better run through the shower before my guests arrive! It's a beautiful sunny day and I've got chores to do.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Year of Projects 3: V Junkie

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalla • 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

With my Year of Projects Blog-Along wrapping up at the end of the month, and with the Socktopus KAL wrapping up at the end of the summer, I'm starting to feel the excitement about nearing both finish lines. There'll be three pairs of Socktopus socks leftover to begin my fourth year of projects, and I'm waffling between two other books for Year 4. On the one hand, I think it would be a tremendous learning experience to work my way through Cat Bordhi's book New Pathways for Sock Knitters. On the other hand, working through Cookie A.'s Knit. Sock. Love. would also be challenging and her patterns are so striking that I'd end up with a bunch of awesome socks. Would it be too crazy to consider doing both? What do you think?

But let's get back to this year's Year of Projects, and the next pattern: V Junkie. I've knit most of the leg - five out six repeats - and so far I'm not loving this sock. The cuff is small, curls instead of lying flat and is not stretchy. The pattern on the leg appears to be directly lifted from the traditional "Newfie Mitts" pattern, although the pattern is worked in a single colour instead of two. There's more vertical stretch (up and down the leg) rather than horizontal stretch (around the leg) which is not great for socks. And unless you have perfectly cylindrical legs, the pattern is distorted when the "cells" are pulled around the wider parts of the calf.

Well, I didn't like the last pair of socks either, but I gave them to Nancy and she loves them. So I'm going to quit my whining and finish them anyway. The other Ravelers taking part in the KAL are a lot more positive about the pattern so I imagine my finished pair will find a good home.

Did you notice the orange tea towels behind my knitting? They're handwoven by Diane Woods who is a member of the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild. The Guild is participating in Kaleidoscope - a show and sale at the Art Gallery of Burlington - along with a half dozen other craft guilds. My sister will love these! If you've never had handwoven tea towels, you don't know what you're missing. I bought a couple for myself too, and Gavin commands that we throw out all the other tea towels; we have to just use the handwoven ones!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Year of Projects 3: Kandahar 03

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalla • 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 Kandahar socks are done! And a lot of the credit for that has to go to the Knit Companion app on my iPad; I wouldn't have nearly as comfortable picking up and putting down the needles at any point in the 16 round repeat without the app keeping track of where I was at all times.

In last week's post I shared my frustrations about the pattern. It's a lovely pattern - as long as the width of your feet are about average for the length of your feet. I couldn't find a way to make them fit my long, narrow feet at all.

For this week's post I want to talk about the yarn for a minute. I purchased Elann A-Series yarn sight unseen online because it was so reasonably priced and so well reviewed. So much truth to that old adage "You get what you pay for".

The yarn is labelled as "sport weight" but to my way of thinking it's more like a heavy fingering; on the needles it reminds me of Kroy sock yarn. And it's not soft ... not at all. In fact it seem kind of rustic and scratchy like Noro or Briggs & Little. Now I'm no expert on dying but it seems to me there ought not be noticeable stripes of grey and pink  with occasional red slubs in a solid colourway either.

After knitting a pair of socks I've concluded that the yarn is a good bargain for utilitarian hiking or boot socks, but not soft enough or nice enough for much else. Nancy said she'd want them, so I'll be handing these socks over to her. As knit, they're too big for her but they might fit her after a first wash. Despite being labelled "superwash", the yarn is very hairy and sheep-y smelling - I'm skeptical about the superwash claim as well. Once through the wash the socks might be a couple sizes smaller. And maybe a bit softer too!

Next on my Year of Projects list and in my Socktopus KAL is the pattern V Junkie. This is another one of the patterns in the Socktopus book that holds little appeal for me, so despite all my b#tching about the yarn I plan to use it again for this next pair of socks, but this time in blue. We'll see ... maybe I'll like the pattern more once I start knitting it :)