Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not Quite Trek-Along

Well, it's not quite made out of Trekking, but it's a sock and it went hiking with me yesterday. When I took the sock and camera out of my backpack, my husband merely rolled his eyes and called me a yarn geek. This is the second sock from the Austermann Step and I'm working on the heel flap. As soon as I finish this sock, I'll start some socks in the pastel Trekking on the left. It's my last skein of Trekking, so I'll definitely need to order a bit more on my June free day (which very likely will be the first or second day of June as there's a bit of yarn I do actually need! And a little that I just really want.)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Green Thumb and Yarn Focus Challenge

Other than the Snake Plant bloom, I don't really think of myself as having a green thumb. That's why my indoor plants are all very hard to kill, like snake plants. As for outdoor plants, sure I can grow flowers, but my flower bed usually looks more like a jungle than an organized flower bed. But for some reason, I do really well with plants that produce produce. Currently, we have two strawberry bushes and three tomato plants and all are doing very well. We've had a few strawberries every day now and just waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. So I thought I'd share pictures of my produce plants for Project Spectrum.

As for the Yarn Focus Challenge, I almost caved. I would have caved because Red Bird Knits was having a 20% off sale for two days only and I had been eyeing some silk laceweight for a while and well, 20%, how could I resist? Well, I resisted only because the color that I really wanted was out of stock. So I'm still in. I'll likely stay in for the rest of it. I have my June free day to look forward to. I'll be buying more sock yarn and some laceweight for Icarus.

But, I likely won't participate in any more "alongs" that limit yarn buying days, no more stash-alongs for me. I do appreciate being in the YFC and I'm glad that I'm participating this time around because it's made me realize something about myself. I like yarn. And I really don't like being limited about buying it. I know the purpose of the challenge was for participants to really think about the purchase before making it. And I have thought about it; I've missed out on a couple of yarns that I really would have liked to have because I did think about it and now I'm feeling "non-buyers remorse" a bit. (One was this beautiful laceweight cashmere in muted purples.) I know I didn't really need the yarn, but I wanted it. I think it really goes to this – Yarn is my indulgence. I don't really wear a lot of makeup or perfumes. The few pieces of jewelry I own are purely sentimental. I don't own (or really desire to own) expensive clothes or shoes. I have two kids, so I don't have much time to indulge myself in a warm bath or day at the spa or salon. I'm not really sure I would indulge in the spa if I had the time or money. So, yarn is my indulgence. Yarn and roving are things I like to have around just to touch, to look at, to knit up, to spin. I love the textures and colors of yarn (and also fabrics) and I love watching colors as I spin or knit. It's fascinating to me. Compared to jewelry or really nice shoes, a skein of sock yarn or laceweight is not really all that expensive. And as I don't indulge myself often I'd really like to be able to buy an occasional skein of laceweight cashmere or silk to make myself a pretty scarf when I want it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yarn Thief

I know some of us really like our yarn, but I'd never consider doing this. That's $13,000!

Plain Old Stockinette Sock Pattern for Self-Striping Yarn

I've been asked about what pattern I use for all the socks I've been making lately. Since it's something played with until I got it perfect (for me anyway) based on the number of socks I've done, I thought I'd share. It's nothing fancy, just a basic plain old stockinette sock that can be used for all the nice self-striping yarns out there. I'll try to note adjustments to make for your foot size. I don't care for the short row heel or afterthought heel, so I've been using the heel flap. Keep in mind that this is the first pattern that I've actually written down for someone else to use, so please let me know if there is something I could improve or if you have questions. (You can email me at the address in the sidebar as I don't always get emails sent to me from the comments although I always read them all.)

Pattern for plain old stockinette socks:
I have a size 8 foot which is rather wide. I usually CO around 72 stitches using sock yarn and size 0s, but next time I use Opal yarn, I'll probably cast on 80 stitches because my mom's socks seem a little tighter than the socks I've made with Austermann or Trekking. Divide evenly onto 4DPNs, join, and use the 5th needle to work. K2, P2 for about 18 rounds. Then, knit to desired leg length. For me, the magic number seems to be around 72 rounds. Just seems the perfect length for me, but this length is purely a preference thing in my opinion.

If you plan to make your heels and toes a different color like this one, you'll be joining your heel color when you start the purl row on the heel directions. The advantage of having a different heel color is that you won't have to find the pattern again after making the heel and it looks pretty cool, but you can continue with the self-striping on the heel like these.

Heel: After finishing the last leg round, turn your work and for Row 1, slip the first stitch purlwise, then purl across for 35 stitches (including the slipped stitch, it will be half your total stitches). (Instead of turning your work and purling, you can learn to "knit backwards"; it works well for a few stitches so you don't have to keep turning your work. You can see my tutorial with pictures here on knitting backwards.) Row 2: *Slip 1 purlwise, K1; repeat from * across. Repeat the two rows for desired length, usually around 40 rows.

Heel turn: Row 1: slip 1, purl 18 across (If you use a different number of stitches than I did, this number will equal half of your total heel stitches. So I had 36 heel stitches, half of that is 18. If you have 40 heel stitches, you would purl 20 across), purl 2 together, purl one.
Row 2: slip 1, K3, ssk, K1
Row 3: slip 1, purl to 1 before the gap on the previous row, P2tog, P1
Row 4: slip 1, K to 1 before the gap, SSK, K1
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until all stitches have been worked.

If you were using a different heel color, after finishing the heel, you'll cut the heel color and pick the original pattern color back up so you'll be knitting across the instep (the top of the foot). If you were using the original self-striping, then you'll cut the yarn after the heel and wind off enough to match up the stripes pattern on the instep.

Join and knit across the instep (the instep should be on two needles, equally divided). On an empty needle, pick up 21 stitches along the gusset (or one more than the number of rows you did for the heel), knit half of the heel stitches. On another needle, knit the other half of the heel stitches and pick up 21 stitches. Your round will now start on the instep.
Rnd 1: Knit around
Rnd 2: Needles 1&2: Knit across instep; Needle 3: K1, ssk, knit across needle; Needle 4: knit across next needle to last three stitches, K2tog, K1
Repeat these two rounds until you have the original number of CO stitches. Knit rounds until desired length – for me, that's about 50 rounds.

Toe: Remember your round begins on the instep. If you want your toe a different color, do one plain old knit round of the new color before beginning the toe rounds.
Rnd 1: Needle 1: K1, SSK, knit across; Needle 2: Knit to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1; Needle 3: K1, SSK, knit across; Needle 4: Knit to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1
Rnd 2: Knit around
Repeat until you have half the original number of stitches. For me, that's 36 stitches. Then repeat Round 1 until 20 stitches remain. Graft or kitchener the stitches. (Just google kitchener stitch and you'll find plenty of help there. I always have to look it up.) Weave in the loose heel ends and any other loose ends.

Again let me know if there's anything I should fix in the pattern. The only other thing I can think of is that I've always had plenty of yarn left over when using Trekking which has around 450 yards. So if you use a comparable yarn, you shouldn't have to worry about running out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Process knitting

As Margene says, it's the process. I think that's why I've been doing so many socks lately. I love lace and I've been working on it a little. And I know at some some point lace will once again become my obsession, but right now I'm really enjoying socks. Nothing fancy, just plain old stockinette socks. This self-striping yarn is just fascinating, the way it stripes and I keep going just to see what it's going to do next. Round and round of nothing but knitting – very few purls, no yarn overs, no cables. It's so quick that even if it's about the process, I also feel like I'm making a lot of progress. I mean, I just started this pair last Friday night and look where I am already. Having just joined Summer of Socks and the Trek-along I'll probably be socked out by June.

And while on the subject of socks: Why should you always knit socks with 5 dpns instead of 4? Because in the unlikely (or likely depending on the person) event that you should lose (or forget back home) one of your needles, you can slip one needle's stitches to another needle and work on 4 needles until you find your needle (or get back home where you left the working needle laying on the desk). Gee, you'd think that had happened to me recently or something.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mom's Socks and Spinning

Just so you don't think that all I've been doing is playing video games, there is also a little knitting. I finished my mom's birthday socks. They are made with Opal Petticoat 1296 on size 0s. I finished them last night and I started some new socks for me out of the Austermann Step yarn. Let me tell you, the stuff is soft. I don't know how it will wear, but it really does feel nice while knitting it. I read on someone's blog that they thought it split a lot, but I haven't had that problem. I'm almost done with the first cuff.

I've also been doing a bit of spinning with the new Golding. The silk is really nice to spin and really easy to spin very thin. The shine is incredible and it's so soft. I fully anticipate it taking me quite a while to spin it up by spindle. But I am enjoying it. (And now my wheel is suffering a little neglect. I need to work on it sometime this week.) Is it any wonder that I have so many projects going at once; so many interesting things to do!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Stupid Xbox

Yes, there is very little knitting content in this post. In fact, there is none whatsoever. I am currently very ticked at my Xbox as it ate my game. I had spent 12 (okay, maybe 13) hours on Fable and just gotten past the Arena (which is a giant pain in the derriere because you can't save the game in the middle of a quest, so if you stop playing in the middle of the arena quest, you have to start ALL over; it wasn't that hard, just long and annoying. I saved it afterwards planning on playing another day and the stupid machine now won't let me load my game. In fact, it won't let me load any of the five games under that particular profile. I can start a new profile, save a game, and load the new game, but I can't get into any of the ones where I had been playing for so long. Twelve hours wasted. Yes, I am aware that some people may feel that that is twelve hours wasted anyway. I mean I could have spent that twelve hours knitting – that's a pair of socks after all. But hey, I could have worse vices than sock yarn and video games.

Stupid Xbox.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Amazing Lace Introduction

I'm no good at this sort of thing, but here goes my introduction for Amazing Lace. I've always been in love with lace. Although I love just about any craft, I always come back to lace. I know people who are genuinely afraid of lace; I've never feared it. My first real knitting project was a knitted afghan that I made when I was in junior high school; it was a lacy pattern that no one told me was too hard for me. I ended up making another one for my mother.

I then started crocheting more than knitting. I was crocheting afghans in college and decided to make my mother something for Mother's Day, so I picked up some cotton crochet thread and a doily book and went to it. I made lots of doilies with small thread. Then, I took the small thread and decided to have a go at tatting.

I let my crochet lapse because of hand pain, but I don't know why I let knitting lapse for so many years. A couple of years ago, I decided to knit a poncho. Why, I don't know because I've never really cared for ponchos, but I wanted to knit something. I bought a couple of knitting magazines, some yarn and decided not to make a poncho, but a stockinette wrap instead. Then I decided to learn to knit socks. Done. Then my re-introduction into lace was through Nancy Bush. I made her Latvian socks and found another pattern of hers in Scarf Style - Ene's Scarf. "Wow, that's beautiful," I thought. "I don't wear shawls though. Who cares, I have to make it." Needless to say, I was a goner. Lace is now so much of an obsession with me that I learned to spin so I could spin my own laceweight.

Which brings me to the introduction of my partner for Amazing Lace - the Moon Dance Stole. This lovely pattern was written by Melanie. I got this pattern around the same time I was spinning my merino/angora from Kim. I thought it was perfect, so I kept spinning to see if I was going to have enough. I only needed about 1000 yards, but could I get that from 4 ounces of fiber. Two ounces were finished and plied and they totalled over 800 yards! Yep, I could get what I needed. So, without further ado, here is my Moon Dance Stole:

I am enjoying the pattern and the joy of having spun the yarn myself doubles the pleasure!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sock Lady and Music

More sock yarn:

In case you're wondering, I didn't break my Yarn Focus Challenge. This is part of my order from The Knitter.com from my April free day. I'm still waiting on one more thing, so it's sort of good to have things on back order; it's new yarn, but I didn't have to fall off the wagon as Lizzy B put it. I love the color and had originally planned to make myself something lacy with it, but now I'm leaning more towards making my girls (who love pink) socks instead. I will probably wait until closer to winter though because their feet grow so fast.

An update on the annoying I-Want-Socks woman. She said something to me in passing last week and I ignored it since she was going out the door. Today, she was sitting right beside me and we talked for a minute. Since she had a book, I pulled out my DH's mp3 player and put the headphones on. Only after it was established that I wouldn't be talking anymore did I pull out my mother's socks. I swear I think she started to say something, but my attention was on the kids' class. Yes, I realize I am a coward for not telling her what she can do with her "I want socks". I can't help it; I'm non-confrontational. On the plus side, I did get to listen to the new CD that my DH gifted me for Mom's Day.

Speaking of music, any suggestions for me? I'm not really big on much of today's music. I listen to a lot of classical, but two "current" artists I really like are Norah Jones and KT Tunstall (my new CD). So, if you have a similar artist you'd like to recommend, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day and a Little Knitting

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! (And for those of you aren't moms, take a day for yourself anyway!)

Okay, I've obviously already used my free yarn/roving day for the month. So, what do I do? I buy fabric, of course. (See the loophole, Rebekah? There's fabric, beads, tons of other craft stuff to buy. I'm hopeless...) Unfortunately, none of the pictures really turned out, but I got some brown silk duponi, tan silk, black silk velvet and a pretty dark grey silk. All are remnants and they are destined for miniatures. I hope to get the Fimo out and work on some more dolls sometime this week. (See Anna.)

I've also been doing a bit of knitting. One Opal sock is finished. Not before my mother left, but the pair will be done in time for her birthday. Color is a little more accurate in this picture. It's a bit overcast today.

I've also been working on lace a little bit. The Moon Dance Stole from Melanie. I got to meet her at the S&W and it inspired me to work a bit more on it. I do need to spin a little bit more of the merino/angora blend, probably only about 200 yards or so, so that shouldn't take too long.

The color is actually fairly accurate, it's muted black with a bit of red in it, so it does have a brownish hue on screen. The pattern is well written and easy to follow. I haven't had a problem with it.

The silk spinning is going well. Great stuff to work with, but that's for another day (when it's not overcast and I can get decent pictures).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Did You Know...

that Snake Plants (also known as Mother-in-Law's tongue) have flowers?

I didn't know they flower until I saw the flowers sticking up in the pot. I thought a seed had somehow got into the pot and flowered, but it was coming from the plant, so I googled it and sure enough snake plants will bloom, but only if really cramped in their pots. (Guess never re-potting has its advantages.) Don't the blooms look really inconsistent with the plant? I thought it was very appropriate for Project Spectrum.

Speaking of PS, the socks I'm making for my mom. It's Opal Petticoat; isn't it really pretty?

And my mom's first knit project, a dishcloth:

Look at how even those stitches are.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stash Enchancement at the MDS&W, Part II

I'm feeling a bit more human today. I'm still tired, but I've got goodies to show. I swore I wouldn't let myself get too much purple and pink at the S&W this year. I was kidding myself. These hairsticks are the only thing that didn't have purple or pink anywhere. (Click on any picture to make it larger.)

I was actually quite disappointed not to find a lot of laceweight. I only found a little bit of sock yarn that I liked. It was, in fact, the only sheep's wool I got.

The one on the right will be socks for my mother. I'm casting on today and hope to finish them before she leaves.

I got mostly silk this year. Lots of silk. I had never spun silk before, but for some reason the silks called to me. The sheen and the softness, the way it drapes even unspun. I figured silk was perfect to spin on my new spindle. The pink/purple and the purple/teal, two ounces each, are from The Flock Bransonas.

Four ounces of chocolate alpaca with multi-colored tussah top from Shadeside Farm. The picture just doesn't do it justice. It's called "Marvelle" and it has purple, magenta, and blue.

And here's four ounces of bamboo top. I was having trouble deciding between two and my friend told me "You know you want the one with the purple". It's very silk-like and soft.

I also got a couple of soaps - lavender mint and lavender cinnamon. So even my soaps have purple in them. All in all, it was a good day. Lots of nice fiber, lots of nice people. I didn't spend too much and I even bought everything that "spoke" to me.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stash Enchancement at the MDS&W

I survived the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Quite honestly, I don't think I could have survived a second day, so it's probably a good thing it didn't work out. For those of you who have never been, here's a picture of the crowd.

It's pretty much like this throughout the festival. So, for those of us who are easily over-stimulated, it was a quite over-stimulating day. I was really tired by the time I reached the blogging meet-up at 1:30. I left before Wendy got there to sign copies of her book (sort of bummed about that), but I did get to meet a few other bloggers throughout the day including Melanie, Lizzy B, Shelley, and Lolly.

So what was my first stop? The Indigo Hound booth where I picked up two lovely polymer clay spindles by Halla. (As always, you can click on any of the pictures to get the larger version.)

My second stop is where I got my favorite item of the day. I had planned on picking up a Sweetheart spindle from Golding. Well, look what I got.

Not only is that a Sweetheart (at a mere .65 oz), but it has a purpleheart wood whorl. How pretty is that? He said that he only made about four of the sweethearts with the purpleheart for the show. I'm so happy that I got it. And yes, I've been using it already. Can you believe that (like the larger Goldings) it spins forever! I just cannot believe how a spindle so small can spin so long. Because the picture makes it look huge, here is another picture just for scale.

And in case you're wondering what that pink thread is, it's hand-painted cultivated silk sliver from Spirit Trail Fiberworks.

I've got some more stuff to show, but I'm still a bit worn out so the rest is going to have to wait until tomorrow! I was just too excited about the spindles and wanted to show them off!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Knitter Can Never Have Too Many Bags

First of all, the important stuff. A new pair of socks:

The specs: K2, P2 leg done on size 0s with Trekking yarn

You know how the Friends of the Library always sell stuff to support the library? Well, our "Friends" sell bags. They've been selling these canvas bags for at least the last couple of years in different variations. Sometimes they have zippers, sometimes they are a little bit different sizes and sometimes they have different colors. These bags are pretty decent quality as evidenced by the fact that I use a particular one to carry books back and forth to the library every single week (we check out a LOT of books) and it is still holding up well. They sell these bags for a mere five dollars each. How can you beat that for good bags while supporting the public library?

I was emptying a couple of my bags to take with me on Saturday, so I thought I'd show a picture. (The black one is my newest.) So if you see somebody with long dark blonde hair (probably in a braid) carrying around one (or more) of these bags on Saturday, it just might just be me. Especially if the someone is also wearing this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The socks are coming along; I'm now on the gusset of the second one.

I've been spindling on my Golding. Not for a specific project, just playing. I'm planning to get another spindle or two at the Sheep & Wool. Definitely a laceweight Golding and maybe another one. (They do spin like a dream.) And check out these lovely ones from Halla. Aren't those pansies lovely. The Indigo Hound booth will be one on my first stops. I hope to also get Wendy to sign a copy of her book (which I hope to find there as I couldn't find a copy at my local bookstore).

I'm really excited about the festival this weekend! There will be plenty of pictures to show next week.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Blue/Mauve sock

Yes, I gave up long ago on clever titles. So the title is Blue/Mauve sock and that's what you'll get.

The colors are a bit more vibrant in real life, but otherwise fairly accurate. I think I'm going to have to add about four or five rows as it's just a little too short, but I was going to wait until the second sock is done to make sure I have enough yarn and that I won't have to redo the toe again in a solid color.

Nothing else interesting to show. I'll surely make up for that next week though. I'm going to the Maryland Sheep & Wool on Saturday only. I had hoped to go both days, but it doesn't look like that's going to work. Right now rain is in the forecast for Saturday :( (Not that a little rain will stop me from going.)

Thanks for all the comments/advice on annoying I-want-socks lady. I'm hoping if I ignore her enough, eventually she'll get a clue. I refuse to stop knitting during the class and I'm not going to sit in my car with the air conditioning on all summer. Besides, I pay for the lessons, I'm going to watch my kids enjoy them. I refuse to be run off by annoying people. If she keeps up, I will have to tell her that she can either pay me X amount or I'll teach her (which, of course, she'll refuse).