Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Have Been One Busy Knitter

Dear Blog-

When last I left you my sister had just lost her beloved pet, and I asked you all to drop her a line and a hug. Many, many thanks to all of you who took the time. Your thoughtfulness was very much appreciated by Carol and also by myself. Knitters are the best people.

As soon as I heard about the tragedy I started digging through my books of knitted toys to see if I could find something to take the edge off of her loss. I know I've mentioned here before that I think that British toy pattern designer Alan Dart is a certain part of the dog's anatomy, and that I mean this as the highest of compliments. Alan never fails one. I found one of his patterns of a hedgehog on his way to bed, complete with bathrobe, slippers and hot water bottle. Dug around in my stash and came up with some alpaca in a suitably animal color, and started knitting.

The project was a quick knit, and I like to do the sewing up and stuffing as I go, because those are my very least favorite parts of the process. By Monday evening his body was all knitted, sewn, stuffed and assembled. DH took one look at him and said, You know, he doesn't need to have a bathrobe. Hmmm... I thought, he's right. So I turned his slippers into track shoes, and turned to the felting machine and some red roving to make a sheet of felt that I then cut the heart shape from. Some quick whip-stitching to sew the heart to his front and he was ready to go do his job of bringing a long-distance hug to my sister.

I could swear she was almost in tears when she called me, so he must have been a hit.

How can you not love those eyes? I had some felt in the perfect color to match him.

And I think the shoelaces just make him all the cuter. He looks as if he's going places in a hurry. He is a hedgehog with a mission.

My own mission accomplished, I turned to working on her Christmas present socks. Obviously I can't discuss those here and now but we'll get back to them after Christmas. The only thing I can say at this point is that sock one is finished, and I suddenly felt compelled (I am quite sure that hormones were doing all the talking, as I was feeling quite, quite sorry for myself) to put Sock 2 into time out while I cast on something for myself. After all, I reasoned, I've been knitting for others since June. Time for some knitterly self-gratification. Um, not sure that sounds right, but you know what I mean.

I've been admiring the February Lady sweater, a woman-sized variation of an Elizabeth Zimmerman baby sweater pattern. If Ravelry is anything to go by,then everyone and their mother is making one of these right now, and I have been seriously lusting after one for myself. About two years ago when the Evil Queen stopped selling yarn the shop had a going-out-of-yarn sale, and every knitter in Tucson was there daily scooping up anything they could get their hands on. I picked up some lovely Cascade 220 Heather with another sweater in mind, but I've decided it would be much better put to use as a FLS.

I started with a Latvian cast-on because I love how it imitates garter stitch. Another choice I made was to make my raglan lines stand out against the rest of the fabric by purling the center stitch of the increases on the wrong side. I like the mitred effect that it gives. While you're at it, notice how I am slipping my edge stitches. This cardi has the buttonbands knitted right in, so there is no going back later and refining those edges. So much easier to take care of that as you go.

When you separate the sleeve stitches from the body stitches and begin working on the body,you are instructed to cast on 7 stitches at the underarm. These then become part of the body stitch count. Later, when it is time to pick up the stitches held on the white waste yarn and begin to knit the sleeve, the knitter is asked to pick up stitches from the top of that cast-on. As I don't relish the challenge of picking up stitches neatly at the top of a section of lace, I instead used waste yarn to do a crochet cast-on. I then slid those stitches back to the left needle and worked over them once more with the working yarn before going merrily on my way. When it comes time to work the sleeves I can zip that waste yarn out of the way and have live stitches right there where I need them.

The color in this last photo looks like the equivalent of a sucked-out Popsicle stick, but you can see how far I've gotten.

I have also, FINALLY found and put buttons on the Color on Color scarf, so stick a fork in it, it is done!

As you can see, it fits more like a short stole. Especially after you felt the living daylights out of it.

I found a couple of tagua nut boomerang-shaped buttons at Kiwi, and then a square glass button at Joann Fabric, of all places. Who knew they finally have cool buttons? Might need to look there for buttons for the FLS when the time comes.

I love the details on it. They made the whole ordeal worthwhile.

You may remember way back last - um, okay. I just went back through my archives to reference the particular blog post, and realized that I have NEVER blogged about this next project! I'll be back next time to talk about this in detail. Great detail. Until then, here is a teaser...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Socks and More Socks

Just some of the socks I have knit in the last few months

Last winter I decided to make socks for both of my sisters as part of their Christmas presents. For one sister I made the William Street Socks after first hunting down the required yarn over the entire United States. For the other sister I made the Snicket Socks. Upon hearing this my Mom requested bed socks as part of her gift. Then I made a pair of the Diagonal Cross-Rib socks for my husband.

With what felt at the time like the entire continental US covered in the sock department, I decided that I wanted a sock wardrobe for this coming winter and started making socks for myself. So I made Annetrelac socks with Noro Kureyon Sock yarn. I started making Mock Cable Wave socks at the end of January, only to have DH gaze over longingly from the other end of the couch (where he was petting my feet while he read) and ask if there was enough yarn in that skein to make a pair of socks for him, too. Needless to say, they became his Mock Cable Wave Socks as a Valentines Day gift. Next I made a pair of socks for myself with more of that same yarn. Then I turned to sideways knitted socks in garter stitch, followed by Twisted Flower socks designed by Cookie A. Rivendell socks came next, with a heavily modified pattern. Somewhere in there I joined Sock Wars 3 and knitted a few pairs of socks to kill off my various victims before I myself was killed with a lovely pair of socks.

July is here? Must be time to start knitting Christmas gifts. After asking my sisters and getting an enthusiastic Yes, please! I knit Brigid socks and then a sock monkey with the Brigid leftovers for one sister, as well as a pair of Rainbow socks with Noro Kureyon for her Christmas birthday. Now I am working on socks for the other sister for Christmas - of which I will have to keep all other details secret for now as she reads this blog.

(DH just came and looked over my shoulder at the computer screen, and the desk covered in pairs of socks. 'What are you writing about? Socks? You are definitely a sockaholic!')

By my estimation, I have knitted 16 pairs of socks in the last 8 months. While knitting several other projects in the meantime.

And that is part of why I haven't posted here much in the last few months. Not just that I was too busy knitting to write, but what do you say about yet another pair of socks?

I've knit many pairs of socks over the years before this current obsession took hold. In fact, as I have said many times here, my first project as a returning knitter was a pair of socks. What a great, mysterious process that was! We were on vacation at the time, so I had nowhere that I had to be and no one to make happy but myself and DH. I bought a yarn kit and a set of double pointed needles, went to the local Barnes and Noble and bought Mary Thomas' knitting book. Sitting cross-legged on the bed at my sister's house in the cool fall evenings, knitting and discovering the wonders of knitting in the round and the amazement of my first sock heel. I couldn't have picked a better project to ensure that I would be well and truly hooked on knitting.

But it was discovering how much I love knitting texture that really got me going this time. Cables, knit and purl patterns, entrelac - I'm in love.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting and working on my sister's socks when I really started thinking about what I have been doing these last 8 or 9 months. I've been making a study of socks.

Stretchy cast-ons for top-downs, invisible cast-ons for ribbing, perfectly smooth cast-ons for toe ups. Provisional cast-ons for those socks that start underneath the toe, knit around the whole toe, and then join in the round and knit up the rest of the sock. Eye of Partridge and slip-stitch ribbing heel flaps. Round heels, Dutch heels, V-heels, handkerchief heels. Afterthought heels, 5 or 6 different short-row heels. Heels without any short-rows or gussets at all. Wedge toes, star toes.

I know just what gauge I'll get with sock yarn using sizes 0, 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 needles. I've made socks with dpns, two at a time on two circs (my yarns just get tangled), magic loop (which annoys me enormously), and my personal favorite - one at a time on two circs.

After I finish the current socks and make sister her sock monkey, I have socks for my brother and my SIL to do yet. Maybe some more bed socks for Mom, I want to make two pair of socks for DH for Christmas, and a pair for my middle-sister's partner.

I have three skeins of special treat sock yarn stashed away, waiting for me to finish knitting my gift list. Some Schaeffer Anne in gorgeous blues and greens, some Alpaca Sox in light blue and gold, and some Noro Silk Garden Sock in a rainbow of colors. I have a sock pattern in my brain that just needs some spare time to be designed and knitted up.

I'm hoping that at some point my sock obsession abates and I can obsess about knitting other things. But not just yet, thank you.

And another note. Just before starting to write this I got a text message from my middle sister. It seems that our eldest sister - known on Ravelry as KnitWitNurse - lost her beloved, beautiful 3 1/2 yo Golden, Riley, suddenly and without warning this morning. My sister and I seem to bond to our pets beyond what can be described, and my heart goes out to her for her great and terrible loss. Nearly four years ago DH and I lost our adored kitty of 11 years and I still miss her terribly, so I know how bereft she is right now. My sister is the first one in line to do something kind and thoughtful for others when they suffer losses. If you are on Ravelry, would you just send her a note? She could really use a hug.

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