Sunday, March 25, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 39

  • Merripog Socks - 5% complete, using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Turquoise & Life in the Long Grass Sock in Storm.

With sock one off the needles I was keen to finish up sock two for my Gschnitztal Socks, in no small part because the pattern was hard work and Second Sock Syndrome was threatening. Better get 'em done before I succumbed to temptation and cast on something else.

Hard work, yes, but the pattern was very much worth it. I absolutely love them! The twisted stitches are fiddly, but bright pointy needles and non-splitty yarn in a lighter colour made it much easier.

Hey, did you notice how my legs look oddly different colours in that first picture?! Now that's an interesting trick of the light! I can only wish that my legs were as warmly coloured as the one on the right - horrifying winter white is sadly more accurate.

I updated my Ravelry page with the finished project and almost immediately the designer sent a request to feature my photo on her pattern page. That's quite a compliment I think! I also posted to Instagram and tagged her, as well as posting in a private Facebook group "Addicted to Sock Knitting". If Cambridge Analytica or their ilk are mining my online profile info they're going to be bored to death by salad and yarn photos. Let's see what they make of that!

While on Instagram I noticed that the indie dyer behind Songbird Fibres has cast on Leyburn Socks for herself, perhaps inspired by the pair I completed a couple of weeks ago. That's quite a compliment too!

So despite the dangers I think I'm going to carry on with my social media for the moment. Going forward I will put more thought into:
 • not tagging locations unless it adds to the post
 • not clicking through on posted links
 • not participating in any online polls, quizzes or games, not that I ever did
 • not authorizing third party access to my online info and/or using Facebook to log into anything else
 • getting my news from reputable journalistic sources rather than Facebook
 • exercising healthy skepticism about what I see posted online

It probably comes as no surprise that I decided on a mostly vanilla sock for my next project. I love those little bits of colourwork in Merripog socks, but other than a three rounds of colourwork towards the toe and a colourwork cuff these are essentially vanilla socks. The pattern is written with an afterthought heel in the contrast colour but I don't think it adds anything so I'm omitting it and planning an FLK heel in the main colour instead. Full disclosure: I'm reverse-engineering these. Normally I don't mind purchasing a pattern, but to my way of thinking it's just too simple a pattern to fork over $8 CDN. So I'm adding stitches to the chart to increase the stitch count too. Both yarns I've selected are light fingering weight yarns, so it'll be 2.0mm needles and 72 sts. Finally, the pattern is written cuff-down but I'm going to knit it toe-up so that I can make the leg longer without fear of yarn chicken.

If you were wondering about my MKAL socks, they're still in time out. Clue 3 has been released but I'm staying on the sidelines awaiting spoiler photos from other knitters in order to decide my way forward. So far I'm leaning towards frogging both socks and abandoning ship. Heel option 1 is german short row garter heel which I dislike almost as much as the garter toe. The heel cup looks quite shallow and has a kind of weird puffiness at the decreases in the spoiler photos I've seen so far. No spoiler photos of Heel option 2 yet, but it's also german short rows as far as I know. Ugh... I'd better leave those socks in a bag out of sight for now.

It was -14 with the windchill this morning, but there were Robins hopping around in the yard, so that's a hopeful sign. I CANNOT WAIT for Spring, but wait is what I must do. Around these parts frost risk continues through to the end of May so I'll have to control all my gardening urges for a while yet. At least the days are getting longer and the sun is feeling warmer!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 38

Most of my attention this week was focussed on Gschnitztal Socks, and after numerous false starts and much ripping back I've finished one sock to my satisfaction. My apologies for the photos; this yarn photographs very oversaturated particularly in the yellow/orange tones. You'll have to take my word for it - the colourway is very pretty, and not as harsh as the photos suggest.

There were lots of mods to get to this result. The twisted stitches draw in A LOT and are VERY inflexible so the sock is difficult to fit. The pattern as written works five 13-st repeats around the leg for a primary stitch count of 65 sts. Even after shifting up two needle sizes I couldn't make that work, so I added a repeat for a primary stitch count of 78 sts. Crazy, huh?

Although sock patterns typically allocate half the leg stitches for the heel flap, that was just too much in this case. Besides the pattern has separate narrower charts for the left and right edges of the instep which I wanted to incorporate because I though they added more interest to the pattern. After stringing a lifeline - just in case this was all a terrible idea -  I worked the heel flap by ribbing in pattern over 33sts, leaving 45 sts for the instep. Still sounds crazy, right? Fortunately it worked out as the pattern really draws in.

After working three repeats on the foot it was necessary to add some patterned rib rows to lengthen the sock before starting the toe. Not quite enough length for another full repeat though, and it's probably just as well not have all those twisted stitches across the top of my toes. Truth be told, I miscalculated this the first time too, so I ripped back once more to get the length right. After all the work in getting to that point, why not perfect it? Another repeat on the leg would have been nice but I'd have run out of yarn for sure! To start the toe area I worked a decrease row to shift from 45 sts to 30 sts ... did I mention that I continued the gusset decreases to bring the sole to 30 sts for a snug sock?

It was hard fought but what a pretty sock! I've already cast on sock number two and now that all the mods are figured out, it should be smooth sailing. As you can imagine, I'm also pretty good at working these twisted stitches... with all those restarts on sock one, I've had lots of practice!

Aside from Gschnitztal, I also devoted some time to Clue 2 of the "On the Other Foot" MKAL which was released on Friday. With each clue participants receive two options for the next section. In this case, foot option one is a cable and lace pattern, and foot option two is a stranded colourwork pattern.

The cable and lace option is very nice, although I have some reservations about it. I personally don't like lace for socks, so there's that. Will a 7-stitch cable down the centre of the instep be comfortable inside a shoe? Doubtful. And the large size is the same chart as the small and medium with added purl stitches on each side, resulting in a 5-stitch purl gutter down each side of the instep. Yuck! I don't like wide purl gutters so instead I've repeated the mock cables on each side to extend the patterning out to each side of the instep. Then there's that spiral toe - I'm still not a fan. It fits better than the toe on the colourwork sock, but not as well as a traditional wedge toe.

The stranded colourwork pattern is cute, but feels very fussy to me. Honestly, I feel like I'm knitting a Ukranian Easter egg. I'm tempted to halt the stranded colourwork and finish the foot as a vanilla sock. And I'm seriously tempted to cut off that garter stitch toe that I strongly dislike and rework the toe as a wedge toe.

But more than that I'm undecided about whether I want to complete either sock or make a finished pair of either pattern. With that in mind, I've put both socks in time out to await the release of further clues. Perhaps the reveal of the heel and leg patterns will make my decision for me.

That's it from me this week. There are 14 weeks left in this Year of Projects and I've got 8.5 pairs of socks to go. Doesn't look good, particularly as my knitting mojo feels at a bit of a low ebb. Maybe some spring weather and sunshine will help to perk things up?! Here's hoping!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 37

March came in like a lion with two snowstorms in the first week. The snow was quite heavy at times and the driving treacherous, so that kept me housebound with lots of (knitting) time on my hands.

No surprise then that my Leyburn socks are done. The pattern is simple and it's easy enough to see where you are in the pattern while knitting, so it all goes very quickly. I knit these toe-up as written so that I could use every last yard of yarn for the longest possible legs. Although I prefer to knit socks cuff down - perhaps because I prefer the look and fit of heel flaps and gussets? -  I have to admit that knitting toe-up is a great way to maximize yarn usage.

I worked an FLK heel, which has quickly become my go-to heel for toe-up socks. There are a few reasons why I really like it...

• it's easily memorized; no need to reference the pattern
• it fits really well, especially when I add 4 stitches evenly across the sole before starting the heel to accommodate my pointy heel and high instep
• there are no stitches to pick up, no wraps to fiddle with and there are no holes

The yarn is from Songbird Yarns & Fibres and it's quite lovely. The colours are really bright, clean and saturated, and very much reminiscent of a Blue Jay's colouring. We get flocks of Blue Jays in the yard the minute we put peanuts out in the feeder, so I can certainly vouch for that. It's a bit of a heavier fingering with a very sheep-y feel to it. It's not overly soft but not rough either. It reminded me very much of Mineville Wool Project sock yarn. I was worried that the skein might be a bit short on yardage given the heavier weight but I did pretty well with leg length in the end.

With nothing else on my needles I turned my attention back to Gschnitztal Socks. Remember that I first attempted these socks with dark purple yarn and 2.25 mm dark carbon fibre needles - too difficult to see the stitches and too small to fit over my heel. So I tried again with light red-orange yarn and 2.5mm steel needles - much easier to work the pattern, but still too small to stretch over my heel. If at first you don't succeed.... so now I've tried for a third time still with the light red-orange yarn and the 2.5mm steel needles, but with an added pattern repeat for a primary stitch count of 78sts instead of 65sts ... and success, the third time is the charm!

The Leyburn socks were knit on 2.25mm HiyaHiya Sharp needles. The Gschnitztal Socks are being knit on 2.5mm HiyaHiya Sharp needles. And I suspect that these are now my preferred needles. They are reasonably lightweight, strong and not prone to bending, and boy oh boy are they SHARP! Those pointy points are making the twisted stitches of Gschnitztal so much easier!

There is another sock project on needles here, but I'm not too sure about its future. I signed up for a MKAL on Ravelry, and no sooner than receiving the first clue for the toes I was reminded why I don't like MKALs.

• not knowing what the final socks look like makes yarn selection challenging. I've decided to go with stash yarn that I'm not overly fond of because I'm not prepared to invest $$$ (or nice stash yarn) without seeing where this is going.

• there are two toe options but both appear to have been designed to make them novel in terms of techniques used and appearance. Novel, but perhaps not practical, attractive or even well-fitting.

Option 1 is a "garter stitch toe" wherein you cast on then knit a flat garter stitch rectangle, pick up stitches through the garter ridges to encircle the rectangle and thereby create a toe. The end result does not look like it's going to fit terribly well, although the designers assure us that the garter section will easily stretch to fit. Umm, yeah, well... maybe not my feet with my long pointy toes. Besides, it looks more like a Phentex slipper from the 1970s than a sock I'd want to wear in my shoes. sigh

Option 2 is a "spiral toe" wherein you cast on a small number of stitches and the increases spiral out form a narrow point. Of course casting on a small number of stitches in sock yarn and sock needles is terribly fiddly, and besides, does anyone like this kind of toe? Won't the increases spiral across the top of my toes? Isn't there going to be a weird pointy bit at the end of my foot? sigh

• the next clue comes out on Friday, so with 2 toes done I have to set this aside and do something else.

My current thinking is that I will knit a left sock with option 1 and a right sock with option 2, and see where it goes. If I hate the finished socks, I'll rip them out and repurpose the yarn. At least I'll have tried some new techniques and learned some new things. Maybe one day I'll learn not to sign up for MKALs?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 36

My Grade Nine Physics teacher told me that I'd be an ideal University student - prone to postponing until the very last minute but very good under pressure. That turned out to be true in University and proved true again as recently as last week with my February Paper Bag Project. 

I started my Yaacov Socks promptly at the beginning of February, knit to the heel flap of the first sock and then put them aside in favour of my Mojo Socks. I wasn't enjoying the knitting of the Yaacov socks in no small part because I wasn't happy with how they were knitting up so my motivation flagged. But once the Mojo socks were complete and as the end of February loomed I dug deep and pushed through. I wove in the last end of the second sock at 10:53pm on February 28th with just about an hour to spare!

And you know, I actually really like them now that they're done. So why did I put them aside in the first place? Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy! 

I'll admit I might like them even more if they were in the brighter greener/bluer rainbow colourway, and I'll admit that the un-stretchy corrugated ribbing at the cuff is not ideal, but never mind that. The floats on the inside of the toe area bug me too, but I'm washing and drying them inside out to see if they'll felt into the sock. I think they will.

Aside from the un-stretchy cuff the socks actually fit really well. They're also super soft and comfy thanks to the yarn which was a nuisance to knit - lot of halo and very splitty. And they are very colourful. I especially love the blue/red/brown stripes in the toe area which almost seem to glow like a gas-fired BBQ grill! Fun! 

Let me also say that the pattern design strikes me as very clever. The idea of staggering the gradient  between two balls of the same colourway to create the colourwork pattern - brilliant! Working a two colour heel turn and angling the gusset decreases across the bottom of the heel without disrupting the colourwork pattern - brilliant! I'm glad I knit them and finished them.

On March 1st I opened the next bag for my 2018 Paper Bag Project Year Long KAL on Ravelry to find a skein of sock yarn from Songbird Yarns and Fibres in a colourway called "Blue Jay". It's quite a busy colourway so I went with this Leyburn pattern that uses slipped stitches and lifted floats to break up pooling in variegated yarns. I've turned the heel on the first sock and love how it's knitting up so far. But more on that next week!