Monday, March 31, 2008

Sock Love

So, last week, Alison suggested that if I was bored with the sweater, I should try something new. And I explained to her in email that I had done that- (two pairs of socks, a hat, two pairs of mitts and a bunch of stockinette blocks), and what it was inspiring me to do was more short fun projects. My plan was to knit through my road trip to Albany this past weekend and try to make serious progress, given that I've got a deadline starting to make that familiar whooshy noise up ahead for the cardigan.

And I did- my lovely spouse did all the driving, I knit through NH, Vermont and NY, I knit through much of the house party and I finished a whole sleeve.

But I underestimated Alison's superpowers of enabling, because somehow that ball of sock yarn also fell into my bag. (With the pattern and appropriately-sized needles. I'm telling you, she's good.)


Have I mentioned lately how much I adore socks? They tend to go fast, because I stick them in a ziplock and tuck them in my coat pocket when I go to a restaurant or the bank or the grocery store. Even standing in line becomes knitting time- I just pull the needles out and knit standing up, with the yarn still in the pocket.

And this yarn is lovely- look at the stripes, and the variegation. The dark stripe is really a very dark green, making these kind of foresty beige/tan/dark green socks. These are sedate enough not to raise eyebrows at the office (I'm already the weird doesn't take much in my industry), and yet super-fun to knit. I'm mesmerized by the cute little chevron-angles of the strips. The pattern is very simple- two row repeat. I'm loving these socks.

Yeah. That Alison. Totally superpowers.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Another day, another ball of beige yarn. I'm knitting a sweater sleeve and clearly I've reached the long slogging middle of the sweater, where only determination sees you through. About the only bit that knitters-at-large might find interesting is that I've been using Karen's incredibly handy chain of markers technique for counting rows two different ways. The two marker chain is a simple right side/wrong side marker. Because after spending way too much time squinting at cables trying to decide if it had been three rows or four since the last cross, I concluded I needed an aide memoire. I don't need this for the flat parts of the sweater (I know that all the interesting bits of the pattern happen on the right side, and I can easily tell the difference between two rows and four rows), but for the circular bits, it's a lifesaver. And I'm decreasing every three rows, which is kind of a pain, but using the markers as counters, I can put the sweater down without losing track of where I am.
marker chains

So, I got to thinking the other day, what's different from December? When I was last working intensively on this sweater, the sleeves just seemed to zip by. I don't think my knitting has gotten slower. So I cast my mind back:

December: Knits frantically in every possible free moment. Denies that this will not be done for Christmas.

March*: Picks up knitting. Cat wants to get in lap. Pets cat. Picks up knitting. Remembers cup of tea on kitchen counter. Calls husband to get tea to avoid disturbing cat. Cat perks up. "Something Interesting may be happening!" Cat jumps off lap. Husband laughs. Get own tea. Pick up knitting.
*There's also been a general attack of Real Life, especially work, which interferes confoundedly with crafting. Funny, that.

I think I see a pattern, here. More knitting makes knitting go faster. (It's a radical concept, I'm sure you'll agree.) Now mind you, it's still knitting, and as an activity, knitting is always enjoyable. It just lacks the zip and excitement of a brand new pair of socks out of the new sock yarn I got a couple of weeks ago gray wool sweater stranded colorwork mitts silk lace scarf project.

Let's just say, while I may be a project knitter? I certainly understand the impulse to start nifty new projects, even when other things aren't done. (I simply can't call it 'start-itis', however...grammatically that would mean 'inflammation of the start' ?!! I'm open to other suggested names for the syndrome, however.)

Even Woats isn't interested in this sweater anymore.

And my walking-around blocks have hit a small snag- specifically, I apparently didn't have two entire balls of yarn of each color. Nope. Apparently I had two lavendar and *almost* two white skeins. So I have five and a half blocks, which isn't enough for much of anything. And the only remotely plausible stash buddy for this yarn is a full skein of navy blue, which makes the lavendar look gray. If this yarn weren't so darn sticky, I'd be tempted to frog the lot and try another idea. We'll just have to see what I come up with.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sugar Buzz

The first clue that it's maple season:

The second:

The third (note the parking lot is full and there's steam coming up from the boiler).

And here's the boiler, boiling...

We came, we saw, we ate enough sugar to drop a roomful of diabetics. There was sugar on snow. It was lovely. (Here, my husband embraces his cultural heritage, while our friend Catt holds up a fine example of solidified maple.)

After the ritual consumption of maple product, there was a bookstore crawl. I passed a yarn shop. Or rather, didn't pass it:

Well, I *was* out of sock yarn. And I had two knitting projects with me, the cardigan (I knitted on the sleeve on the way out), and I brought a few random balls from the stash for my walking-around project:

This yarn was given to me, so it didn't arrive with a plan, though I had a couple of ideas. I had thought of doing a scarf, but after knitting a few inches, I didn't like the effect of knitting the two colors together in pattern, so I separated the lavender and white, and started knitting blocks instead, very simple stockinette blocks with a little seed stitch border to stop them curling (because this yarn sticks like the very fiends of hell, and fixing mistakes is accursedly difficult in it). Unfortunately, I'm only getting a block and a half from each skein, and there are four skeins. Six ten-inch blocks isn't going to be enough. I'll need to find a third coordinating color and knit border strips to finish this off. Perhaps in some slightly darker shade of purple. (It can't make this blanket look any more Easter-y than it already does.) At any rate, it'll be another four skeins of stash yarn tasked to a purpose, which is all to the good.

It was a lovely day, despite the weather:

Now if the caffeine would just wear off so I can get some sleep!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Fashion and I have had a rather fraught relationship over the years. As a teen, I was the weird one in glasses who was always...reading. Even had I been interested in keeping up with the latest fashions (and had the money to do so), I doubt it would have been practical. I bicycled or walked to school and to work after, and Maine is not a terrific climate for fashion, even if my tastes had not run more to the outdoors.

Fortunately, my mom wasn't extremely bothered by this, though there were occasional stabs at trying to make me look like a girl- a shirt with ruffles (I objected on principle, but actually liked the blouse after she sewed it), and a succession of Easter dresses that were worn to church once and then buried in the closet. (But they all got a second chance when I got my first job after college and suddenly needed a business wardrobe.)

Where I'm going with this, is that I'm not altogether sure that the fan lace socks aren't a bit too...snazzy? upscale? perhaps even- elegant? for my normal wardrobe.
fan lace sock

And lest you think I'm fooling, there are indeed two:
fan lace socks
Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of both of your own feet at the same time? Well, you're knitters, so quite possibly you do. But I digress.

These are socks that call for polished low-cut shoes, and cropped linen pants. Or possibly sandals and a calf-length skirt. I'm more a polar fleece and hiking boots kind of gal. Even in the summer, my biggest fashion decision on a Saturday morning is whether I need to wear something that I won't care about if it gets covered in polyurethane. (I may be casual, but I *do* have standards. No large holes or paint stains on clothes I wear to work, for example.)

And while I could dredge out a skirt and shoes from the back of my closet, I'm certainly not going to wear them out to a maple-drenched brunch at the North Hadley Sugar Shack tomorrow morning. The forecast is for 34 degrees and sleet. Of course I *could* wait for warmer weather.

But maybe I'll just wear my newest jeans.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Maze of Twisty Cables, Twisting the Wrong Way

While I'm sure that any knitter who has knit cables has experienced the annoying discovery that something was mis-crossed or mis-counted many rows back, I feel that it takes real talent to reverse an entire repeat of a cable panel.

Clearly I have talent.
Do you see it? The top repeat twists are all opposite of the twists on the next one down.

Not being a masochist (I'm knitting this top-down, so I have the entire body of the sweater on one long circular at this point) I'm not going to tear out over 20 long, long rows to correct this. But due to the excessive thoroughness of the mistake, I did have to drop the entire panel.

And annoying as it was, I feel much better now. All my right hand cables twist neatly to the right, left hand cables obligingly twist left. Here are the two sides of the front, side by side for comparison.

And in other news, it is indeed cold enough today to justify hand-knit wool socks, and I'm wearing my new festival socks quite happily. (It has finally stopped raining, which also helps my mood.)

And I have started the second sleeve of the sweater, rather than frogging the first back to the shoulder- I'll have to do it later, but first I want to make sure I've finally got the decreases right on the other sleeve. This yarn does seem to get a little worn-looking with re-knitting, so I'd like to ensure that the next time I pull that sleeve out will be the last.

Okay, okay I'm really still dragging my feet because pulling out knitting is vexing. But I think my reasoning for doing it this way is still valid!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Festival Socks

Over the weekend I was in Dallas for the North Texas Irish Festival. It's the second largest Irish music festival in the country (after Milwaukee), and this it the tenth year I've gone. On the first weekend in March, the weather isn't guaranteed to be nice, but the odds are better than average, and we certainly lucked out this time. The daytime highs were over 70 degrees F (around 21 C), and it was mostly sunny. The music was outstanding- Altan and The Battlefield Band topped the distinguished list of headliners, and a favorite Boston-based group headed by Matt and Shannon Heaton were guests this year as well.

Naturally the biggest question of the weekend was, what knitting to bring. (Okay, it was the second biggest question, but we'd already picked restaurants in advance.) A check of the TSA rules for knitting items shows that they're currently recommending that needles be wood or plastic. I was quite tempted to take the cardigan, which is already on all wood needles thanks to its previous travels to our 50th state, but the bulk finally dissuaded me. Socks, I thought. Nice and small, that's the ticket. But all my sock needles are metal, so I traipsed off to my LYS the day before I left and bought the smallest wooden needles they had- which turned out to be a size too big for the fan lace socks. What was I to do? Clearly, I was fated to dig out the ball of sock yarn I'd picked up at Webs, and start a new pair:



And here they are, in all their finished glory. Toe up, short-row heel, and plain stockinette all around. I cast on as we taxied for takeoff Friday afternoon, and had just reached the second heel when we pulled back into the driveway Monday.

I'm just as glad I opted to keep them plain. The self-patterning properties of the yarn made them interesting enough, and a plain sock was perfectly suited to knitting in frequently bad light. Not to mention that it made it easy to find my place again when a group played a tune so infectious I had to drop the sock to clap along. One should beware groups with dancers, though. I discovered during a particularly compelling performance that I'd managed to scatter short-row wraps more or less at random through the sock. I fixed this, although I did briefly consider trying to reverse them to discover just what new foot geometry I'd invented. (I resisted the urge- I don't know any tentacled creatures who need wool socks.)

The yarn is Online Supersocke 100, Indian-Color, 75% wool/25% nylon.

Pretty, eh? I was finishing the first sock before it occurred to me that this was the self-patterning property, which I'd read about, but never knitted before. At the festival I met another knitter, a relatively new one, but she seems destined to addiction- she told me she had started three scarves, but was so enthralled with my yarn she needed to learn to knit socks right away. It attracted attention from others as well, including one of the flight attendants, who admired it and wanted to know where I'd gotten it.

These are the first socks that I've finished for of course the weather has warmed up into the fifties, and it's rather warm for these socks (particularly at work, where my office hit 82 F today before I gave in and turned on the AC). I may have to save them for the weekend- we're due for more freezing on Sunday. But whenever I wear them, I'll think about a marvelous weekend in sunny springtime Dallas listening to fantastic music. Festive festival socks indeed!