Monday, September 29, 2014

Knitting the NM Throw; yarn etymology

One of the side benefits of my knitting is the way projects evoke memories. Of course, my current project usually evokes an immediate memory if I pick it up to work on it after a break of a day or two--a precise memory of the time and place that I last touched my knitting comes back to me. There's another time and place memory attached to some of the things I knit, the time and place where I bought the yarn. Regarding yarn shops and fiber festivals, my New Mexico throw evokes multiple memories.



Most of the yarn can be considered New Mexican, at least to the extent that I purchased the yarn from mills located in New Mexico. The two main yarn sources are The Natural Twist and Tapetes de Lana.

I first bought the Natural Twist yarn a couple of years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. While it was a Colorado venue, the yarn was purely New Mexican. I was thrilled with the dyes Ruth Baldwin used in her Enchantment Series and purchased hanks of Mi Casa, Dixon, Chamisa and Ancient Red, planning to make stranded pillow covers. Luckily (for my current project), I lost interest in pillow covers. However, it wasn't until I began knitting afghans last winter that I thought of using Ruth's yarn in a throw.

Last year, while organizing my yarn storage, I realized that I had quite a bit of leftover worsted weight yarn. Naturally, I decided to knit it up--I never throw out yarn! I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my oldest wool, plant-dyed churro from the now-closed La Lana Wools in Taos, produced a great garter-stitch fabric. I had purchased an exorbitant amount of churro yarn years ago, planning to crochet an afghan. I cranked out over 60 little squares before I lost interest.(Again with the project abandonment--that's not usually my deal.) I used about 50 of the squares in a pillow cover and a rug. Even after knitting the center of the rug with the churro I hadn't crocheted into squares, I had yarn left. That's when I put the leftover yarn, the leftover squares and other leftover worsted weight wool together and made a lap blanket, thereby stumbling upon the discovery that the churro knits up nicely in garter stitch. If the churro yarn was, as I had long suspected, produced by the Mora Valley Spinning Mill, I concluded that their other yarn might make a nice afghan as well.

I was seriously considering knitting this blanket when I found The Natural Twist booth at the Salida Fiber Festival last year. I bought a few more hanks of the yarn whose colors are named for the Land of Enchantment and reflect the tones of adobe and the desert.



While at the festival, I was happy to find the Mora Valley Spinning Mill booth. I had paid a visit to their shop, Tapetes de Lana, earlier in the year, buying much of the yarn I used in this project there--the shop offers yarn at a 40 percent discount.

Last year's fiber fest allowed me to finish off the demands of this project preparation, at least as much as I thought was needed. I took my purchases back home and put them in a bag with the pattern book. Then I dug through my yarn stash to see if I had any other bulky weight yarn that might fit the color scheme. That's when I chose the gray yarn. I had purchased it several years ago in Gunnison, Co.



Back then, there was a small yarn shop in Gunnison. The owner, who named the shop Passion for Yarn and Beads, had a small but varied stock of yarn. Amongst it was a locally hand-spun natural yarn that some of the local knitters had used for Aran sweaters. It was far too itchy for me to wear, but I couldn't resist buying a couple of hanks for my stash. This rustic yarn worked quite well with the yarn from the Mora Valley mill. (I don't think this shop is open now. The last time I visited, it was only open a couple of days a week or by appointment. The owner had taken a full-time job.)

The last bit of yarn I used is neither rustic nor hand-spun, but it is memorable. I purchased it one day when I was taking a class upstairs at Serendipity Yarn and Gifts in Buena Vista, Co. The shop manager, who was nearby attempting to bring order to the crowded shelves, commented that there was too much yarn in the inventory. "Everything on the floor is half-price.", she stated, sparking pandemonium among the shoppers. We took an immediate class break to shop. Things really got even crazier when the manager started knocking yarn off the shelves and onto the floor. Downstairs, she poked a bin of Arucania, setting off a yarn avalanche. I sat down by it and ended up selecting more than enough Arucania for a knee-length sweater. The leftovers are in my NM throw. Not New Mexican, but certainly associated with a very nice memory.


Just think, as you knit your current project, whatever it may be, wherever you got the yarn, you are not just knitting a scarf, shawl, sweater or sock. You are knitting a memory.
See my previous post for more on my New Mexico throw.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Painting my Knitting

I've occasionally used the Paint program to plan an afghan.  I just draw rectangles and paint in the colors--on the computer, that is.  My artistic talents are limited--can't draw a straight line without a ruler.  Besides, I prefer the ease of changing colors within the Paint software.

For my current afghan, Cynthia's Afghan from Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience Book 3: Color, I made a replica of each square as I finished it.  Here's an example, square number 29, with brick and chamisa as the final outer dark colors.


Then I used the collage function in Picasa to arrange the squares.  Actually, Picasa chose a random arrangement.  I just fine-tuned it to align the darks and lights with Sally's diagram.  Then I put all the squares out on the guest bed and played switcheroo with them until I had a layout where no two colors were adjacent.  If all this seems a little over-engineered, let me explain:  Sitting in front of the computer doesn't strain my back as much as bending over the guest bed.  I can move the little photo squares around much easier than I can move the actual squares. After I arranged the squares to my satisfaction in Picasa, I used the corresponding numbers to arrange the actual squares on the bed. 

Yes, I tagged all the squares with a number.  Believe me, those numbers were real sanity-savers.  When I misplaced squares, I just referred to the layout and the numbers to find their proper position.

Now that all is arranged, I'm knitting all the squares together and adding the edging.  Here's the layout collage.


And the actual afghan.


Off to the left in the photo above is my next project, one I couldn't resist starting before I finished this one. Taking a square that I didn't use because the colors layout was too different, I'm continuing the log cabin pattern with the leftover yarn. In the end, I will have a large square--I don't know how large it will be. I'm already thinking I might buy more yarn for it! Anyway, once it is big, but not as big as my Cynthia's Afghan, I will use it as a blocking/felting test. The pattern suggests that you full (slightly felt) the afghan by washing it and then putting it in the dryer on low heat for a bit. I think this rather rough wool will benefit from fulling. However, I am afraid that some of the darker hand-dyes may bleed. If I full the large square, I'll be able to decide if I want to full the afghan. Finally, here's a close-up.


And a link to the Ravelry project page.

My, those blocks are a bit askew. I definitely need to find a way to block it without having the colors bleed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Knitting

New knitting, as in knitting in New Mexico, I mean to say.  Summer has begun here in our new home.  Once begun, it is nearly over, with occasional chilly days to remind us of the coming winter--time to start knitting! 
Often, however, the weather here is perfect--sunny with occasional light showers, never hot, seldom even warm.  I am quite busy, much busier here than I was in Colorado.  Not that Colorado was dull, but there are more "amenities" here.  The ski area is much closer, as is the golf course and the fitness center.  The lake, as I mentioned in my first post about our move, is just down the block.  A bit of it can be seen from our house. 
It is the house, as well as the amenities, that fills my time.  I've been painting, refinishing, shopping and decorating.  Combining that with exercise, golf, canoeing, and shopping really packs a full schedule.  I'm worn out, but much better exercised that I was.  I know Colorado is a "healthy" state, but this proves "health" is largely a matter of convenience.   In  Colorado, we drove all over the state, combining work with sightseeing.  Here, we are fully retired.  We drive only to nearby destinations, usually the same places repeatedly, but getting out and doing more as soon as we arrive.

And is there knitting here?  You bet.  There's a yarn shop right here in town, as well as a quilt shop (I've been to both).  Then there's the yarn shops in Taos, and the weaving center in Mora, where they sell knitting yarn as well as weaving yarn.

And, and, well.  I am still knitting argyle.  Oh my, am I knitting argyle!  I've finished another pair of argyle socks.  These are a bit different, loosely based on a pair in the vintage argyle pattern pamphlet I bought on eBay. 

From 3 Sleeves to the Wind

I couldn't resist, once I looked at the photo above, calling attention to my poor big toe, the one up in the air. It's been held up a bit more than usual lately, ever since I fought a New Mexico rock into place in one of my flower beds. I fought, but the rock won. Score: one for the rock, and a broken toe for me. That was almost a month ago. I'm pretty much back to normal now. That's why I can put a sock on that foot. My conclusion is that summer is a good time to break toes--I can wear sandals.


Warm enough for sandals, but cool enough to knit, it's been great weather that has allowed me to knit a sweater--an argyle sweater, of course.

From 3 Sleeves to the Wind

Well, that ought to cut down on my followers!  So few are interested in knitting argyle.  If I didn't like the looks of it so much, I would never have tackled it either.  It is a pain to deal with the hanging bits.  Otherwise, it is much more fun than other knitting.  The pain is mitigated by the interesting complexity and the beautiful result.  And the real bonus is that argyle is popular golf attire.  I may start an argyle vest!

I've had to post the photos through Picasa links--looks like my software is as broken as my toe. Don't follow those links for more info on my projects. You can find that in Ravelry: Argyle socks
Argyle sweater.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Knitting Argyle Socks

I finished another pair of argyle socks last week, making real some of the ideas I had while knitting the first pair. I like to see a idea worked to fruition before I make a final decision on its success. Overall, I'd rate these a moderate success. I started these socks from a provisional cast on at the toe, then worked them toe-up so that I could knit the crisscross lines right-side-up. I also began the argyle pattern just above the toe.
 

I'm sure now that I prefer toe-up for argyles, simply because I want the single stitches of the criscrosses to be little right-side-up v's. I also like having the argyle pattern run down the instep.  However, I don't like it running all the way to the toe.  I'll try starting the next pair at the gusset, so that the argyle patterning will run about halfway down the instep.  I also see a problem in the chart alignment on the foot.  I really don't like the half-diamonds on the sides of the instep.  I unwittingly created half-diamonds when I expanded the chart for the first pair to create this second pair.


The design for the first pair had the contrasting diamonds on the sides of the socks and a seam in the back. Extending that same chart down the foot split the diamonds on each side of the instep in half.  I can correct this problem by moving the contrasting diamonds to the middle of the sock.

 
Another change I made in this pair was to move the seam from the back of the sock to the side.  Mirroring the pattern on the socks placed the seams on the inside of each leg, hiding them in a less visible area.  While knitting this pair, I found that the problem is not is seam placement alone. The seam is fine either place, side or back. It simply belongs in the main color diamonds so that it can be sewn with one strand of yarn. The seam here (visible on the sock on the right in the photo above) marries two different colors in the sole and jumps between colors in the leg.


The toe-up construction I used in this pair requires either a short-row or an afterthought heel.  The short-row heel I used was easy to work in the flat piece of knitting along one side of the instep.  Seaming joins it to the other side of the instep.

The contrasting heels were a necessity. My original plan was to knit the heels, toes and cuffs in a contrasting yarn to stretch the coverage of the main color yarn. (These socks took less than 200 yards of the main color yarn, Patons Kroy in Glencheck.) After the first toe was finished, it was obvious that the contrasting toes split yet another diamond in half, adding insult to injury. 

Luckily, when the socks were done, there was enough of the main color yarn to reknit the toe.  The diamond above the toe is now more complete, even though it has a black line across it.  The black line that remains is a bit of the toe that I started just after the provisional cast on, on the theory that picking up stitches in the same color yarn would make the transition between toe-up and toe-down knitting less noticeable.That's ok--it looks a bit like the seam line found on commercially-made socks.  Additionally, the first sock I knit still has the black cuff.  There might be enough yarn left to reknit it in the main color.  However, I'm not sure which color cuff I like better, black or gray.  If I ever do pick a favorite, I might reknit the one or the other cuff so that they match. 

I tried a couple of new (to me) types of short-row heels in these socks.  The sock on the left in the photo below has a Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  The one on the right has a double-stitch heel.  The Fish Lips Kiss namesake shape is visible in the left heel.  The double-stitch heel has that same shape on the left side only.  The rightmost side is saggy.


Both of these are my favorite type of short-row heel, one that uses two rows in between the two halves of the heel.  The in-between (boomerang or yo-yo) rows are used to work the turning stitches created in the first half before creating even more turning stitches in the second half.  I have always preferred disposing of the first set of yarn overs or wraps halfway through to having two wraps or yarn overs to work at each turn in the second half.

I was relieved to find that the Fish Lips Kiss Heel includes these two rows in the middle.  I also find the turning stitch in this type of heel easy to work.  Besides that, it looks good.  I have always wanted to use a stitch that was less bulky than the yarn overs or wraps.  This one is not only less bulky, it produces a smooth join at the heel turn.  All I can see on the outside is a 90-degree turn in the stitches at the side of the heel. 

Comparing this heel to a short-row heel with yarn overs was easy.  I have knit a lot of those heels with yarn overs!  I was less certain as to how the Fish Lips heel would compare to a short-row heel with double stitches.  I haven't really tried that type before.  Luckily, I have a sock book that features that type of heel in several patterns.  I used those instructions to work the heel in the second sock.

The first thing I noticed was how similar the double-stitch heel and the Fish Lips Kiss heel are in overall appearance.  However, the join at the double stitches is not as tight and smooth on the outside as it is in the Fish Lips Kiss heel.  Also, the double stitches are harder to work.  I had trouble getting my needle into them once I tightened them enough to make a good join.  I got them tight enough when making the turns on the purl side, but not when making the turns on the knit side of the heel.  That's why the indented "Fish Lips Kiss" shape is visible only one side of the double stich heel.

Another change I made on the double stitch heel was to try working the middle two rows all the way across the sock.  Since the other colors I needed for the instep pattern were there, I could work across the heel with the contrast yarn, and then pick up the appropriate colors to work across the instep.  That's something new I learned with this sock--with intarsia, it is possible to knit a heel in a contrasting yarn and still knit boomerang rows across the instep without disrupting the pattern.  I have always had to just work the middle rows across the heel only when I knit a short-row heel in a contrasting color in a standard one-color sock.

I found both of these heels, the Fish Lips Kiss heel and the double-stitch heel (which is from Around the World in Knitted Socks, a book by Stephanie van der Linden) handled the middle rows in the same way.  It works, but it isn't as integrated into the sock.  I'm still looking for a better method.  I know now that I can use intarsia to work across the instep for the first round, but then the yarn won't be in the right spot on the second round.  Once I finish the heel, I can work across it with the instep yarn.  How will a boomerang heel look with just one round in the middle?  I could use the intarsia-in-the-round technique and work back across the instep after the boomerang round.  Would that be an improvement over working back and forth in the heel?

I'm thinking about these and other questions as I knit a third pair of argyles.  I started this third pair to try a different construction, one that has three seams.  I'm also working out sizing issues.  My ultimate goal is to knit a pair of argyles that incorporates a bit of a tartan that has ancestral connection for me.  That means I'll be knitting and writing about more argyles!

Don't worry, I'm not so single minded that I can only knit argyle socks.  I've picked up a cowl I started last winter.  Look for it and my argyle project notes on my Ravelry project page.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Knitting Impatiently

As you might be able to tell by scanning through recent posts, I have been focused on revising previously published patterns and writing new ones.  Since the patterns are all for socks, my focus has been finite--socks, socks, socks.  Additionally, that's all I am knitting now--socks.  I try to keep it interesting, but really, I am reaching my limit.  I am impatient to move on to other projects.

At best, I can do a bit of skipping around, looking for interesting topics.  How about a shawl I knit this winter?  It's no longer seasonal, but at least it is a different subject.


The pattern is Dreamy Valentine by Ambah. The stitch pattern is one of the best presentations of hearts I have seen. I thought it was perfect for the yarn I had, which is actually a deep, almost brick, red.
(A snowy backdrop is an easy way to get true-to-life color.)
I like hearts well enough.  You may recall my heart mittens.  I also like triangular shawls.  This one was a huge departure for me.  It is knit from the bottom up.  Not only that, the increases are at the side, so the motifs are arranged horizontally across the shawl, increasing by one with each row.  Since I am used to triangular shawls that are knit from the top down and increased at three points, the center and both sides, I was a little uncomfortable knitting this one.  However, the hearts and the lace got to me.  The pattern is really lovely.  Undoubtedly, I'd like it better if I could knit it from the top down.  I think I could manage that modification, simply working the chart from the top and reversing the increases and decreases.  I'm not sure my terminolgy makes sense, but, after staring at the chart for weeks on end while I knit, I can visualize the changes needed to work it the other way.

I used three balls of Mini Mochi Solids.  I first bound off the shawl as indicated in the pattern for the large size.  At that point, I had used a little over 2 balls of the yarn.  I found the shawl too small, though, even after I blocked it.  I wore it once (on Valentine's Day, of course), then I picked out the bind-off and continued until I had used all three balls.  I even had to use a bit of red from some leftover Mini Mochi stripes for the bind off. The final size and other information can be found on Ravelry (here's my project)

When I look through my knitting projects,  I don't see a lot of red.  Obviously, it isn't a color I enjoy wearing.  Red and pink are colors I will wear, but only for special occasions.  This may just be a Valentine's Day shawl for me.  If so, I doubt that I'll ever repeat knit it, even though I am curious about how it would work from the top down.

I do have repeat knits going on now, though.  I have a new knitting love--Argyle!  I don't know if it is my usual obsessive love of geometrical patterning or if it is the knitting method, but I am newly in love with knitting argyle socks. 

When I say argyle socks, I mean the traditional argyles--socks knit flat, on two straight needles.  I had admired an argyle pattern in the Vogue Knitting book, Accessorize, for years.  I just never thought I was up to knitting it.  Once I started, though, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed knitting socks on two straight needles, even with intarsia. Truthfully, I am probably burned out by all this sock knitting.  I should start a sweater, but can't commit to a large project.  Knitting a sock flat is a bit like knitting a sweater front. 

Even if there are underlying motives to make me love knitting in an archaic fashion, the result is pleasing. I had a lot of fun knitting the first pair. 


I knit the first sock of this pair flat from the cuff down and added the lines afterward with duplicate stitch, following the pattern.  I didn't find the duplicate stitch difficult or too slow, but I wondered, "Why not knit in the lines?"  I answered that question with the second sock, which I knit flat with intarsia diamonds and angling lines.  I did lose my place now and then, but I have the hang of it now.  The second sock is the one on the left in the photo above.  You can see that the lines are less prominent.  (Can't see the difference? Click on the photo to make it bigger.) The lines in the sock on the left are knit in.  The ones in the sock on the right are duplicate stitched.  That sock has a standard slip-stitch heel flap.

Once I finished the leg of the second sock, I double-knit the heel with an argyle pattern.  This gave me an opportunity to work a sample for the argyle chart I included a chart in my latest pattern, Double Heel Socks.

  There's a seam down the back of  these socks.  You can see it in the photo below.


I don't mind sewing seams, but this one could have been a little less noticeable if I had been less impatient.  I was too eager to see how the socks looked on my feet to spend enough time on the sewing.

There's more photos of these socks and a link to my pattern for the double-knit heel on my Ravelry project page. It is too bad that my project is the only one on Ravelry for this pattern. It's a good basic argyle pattern.  I suppose that traditional argyles are not that popular now.

In the 1930's and 40's, argyles were a hot ticket--the most popular sock for young women to knit their boyfriends.  I've found some interesting and inspiring argyle patterns in vintage publications. 

There's another pair of argyles on my needles now, these knit from the toe up. Simply because I think the lines should be in right-side-up v's. No, that's not obsessive.  I have learned a couple of things about argyle sock design with this project, enough to save for another post. 

I'll leave this with another bit of argyle information.  There is, in case you were wondering, a way to knit argyle socks in the round.  I've seen some that manage it with short rows, but it can also be done with intarsia.  Anne Berk has written several patterns for argyle socks and is publishing a book explaining her method for intarsia. You can find her patterns through Ravelry or her website, Annetarsia Knits

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Double Knit Sock Heels Pattern

After seeing such widespread interest in more durable, longer lasting sock heels, I've written up a how-to for double-knitting sock heels. I've knit several pairs of socks with double-knit heels. You may be familiar with the first ones:


I first wrote about these in November of 2011. I wasn't totally happy with the result at that time. Since then, I have improved the design, producing a second pair with better-fitting heels.


I wrote about these in the Summer of 2012. These were much better heels. Still, I've improved the design even more since then. The pattern includes two different methods of knitting double-thick heels: a simple one for those that don't want to fuss with two strands of yarn and a standard two-strand approach that offers the opportunity to add a design to the heel flap. I've improved the leaf and added two more designs. I'll be writing about those soon. But don't wait, purchase my pattern and knit your own!
Double Heel Socks, only $1.99 --

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Knitting Knee Socks, Daylong-style

I have knit a few pairs knee-high socks in the last couple of years, some of which have brought requests for instructions.  I'm starting with the easy ones.  These two are based on my Daylong Socks, Toe Up pattern.  I recently revised this pattern and posted the update on Ravelry. 

My main purpose in the revision was to consolidate all three pattern files into one listing.  Now both the cuff-down and the toe-up version are available with one purchase for only $3.99.  I decided not to revise the version which combined the two into one pattern.  I wrote that pattern to offer a price reduction to those who wanted both versions.  Now that I have made both available for one price, I don't need the combination version. 

The first pair of knee socks I knit, shown in the photo below, served as both test-knit and model for the pattern.
I blogged about these when I was developing the pattern.  I love the yarn and the comfort of these socks.  However, they don't stay up as well as I'd like.  I tried to fix that with my next pair.



I ended the ribbing early to allow for gradual calf increases and to add a turned hem that would hold elastic. These stay up better.  They are 100% alpaca, though.  While warm, the fabric is a bit floppy and inelastic. 

Both of these are good methods of knitting simple knee socks.  And, as we in the U.S. know, after this last winter, some days there is a real need for knee socks.  I've been very glad I knit these.  If you'd like to try a pair, I have posted the instructions as a supplement to my Daylong pattern.  If you have purchased the pattern, you can download it for free.  I will send the link out to all purchasers.

If you haven't purchased the pattern yet, you can buy it on the Daylong Ravelry page or by clicking the link below.  The knee socks supplement will be downloaded together with both the toe-up and cuff-down versions.
Just $3.99!
Susan Luni's Daylong Socks, with knee-high socks supplement

One last (silly) hint.  If you are having trouble getting your hand-knit knee socks to stay up, try wearing them under skinny jeans or leggings.  I've even worn them outside my skinny jeans, like leg warmers--very warm, but not likely to start a fashion trend.