Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Solitary Knitter

Knitting is a solitary task. Most often, I knit when I'm in front of a tv or a passenger in a vehicle. Sure there is usually someone else there, but I'm the only one knitting. Even if I am knitting with other people, my task is mine alone. In my knitting group, "What are you knitting?" is an acceptable question, but an infrequent one. The conversation revolves around family, friends, politics, current events, with only a little discussion of knitting. Sure, we are all knitting, but the knitting is just a sideline, an excuse for getting together.

Perhaps there are other knitters who disagree, those who say their knitting group focuses on group projects, encourages interest in each other's knitting, or those who consider knitting a social event. Nonetheless, I feel I am on firm ground with this statement. The results of Clara Parkes' Knitter's Review Survey agree.

She's summarized her findings in the linked article, but she's covered a lot of topics in her questionnaires. I wonder if Clara is planning a new book from all these surveys. Is The Book of Yarn to be followed by The World of Knitters?

Reading through her findings, I came across several common answers that surprised me --responses that are contrary to what I thought about knitters:

Most knitters don't go to guild meetings. In explaning why they don't go, they say they don't enjoy guild meetings or don't like the other knitters at the meetings.

Knitters often don't care about how their knitting affects others. They want to knit and they don't think anyone has the right to object. (Probably I already knew that; I've got another post drafted on a similar topic.)

Looking at some individual survey responses told me:

Most knitters aren't interested in knitalongs.

Most knitters are blissfully unaware of negative opinions of them and their knitting.

Really. Just a couple of days ago, I heard a non-knitter (male) describe his trip to a yarn shop. He was there at my suggestion to buy a single ball of yarn to mend one of his favorite sweaters, and expressed his amazement at the behavior of those in the shop. He was first surprised as he waited at the counter watching a woman who was buying "a dozen tiny balls of little, thin string of one color, and several more of different colors, three that were green, two yellow, and so on." He was shocked that they cost $7.00 each and at her remark, "This is for a new pattern, and I just can't wait until I get home to start it." "Was she serious?" he asked me. "What did she mean by a 'new pattern'?" "Was it just out, or did she write it?" "Why was she so excited?"

As he walked through the shop, he saw some women sitting on a couch knitting socks. He thought it very funny when one said, "I have my husband's sweater at home I need to finish, but I just can't stop knitting these socks." Laughing, he repeated, "I just can't stop knitting these socks." Since I couldn't explain this behavior to him, other than to confirm that it is very common among knitters, he now thinks knitters are strange.

Strange? I don't know, but certainly they are solitary, by the nature of the task. I'm wondering if someone's preference for a solitary task, one that she "can't wait to get home to start" indicates unsocial behavior? Is it a marker for someone who is introverted, meditative, or just plain shy?

I should be the last one to become convinced that there is a coorelation between knitting and personality. I am the one who says that knitters have nothing in common but knitting. I disagree with all those who generalize this group of crafters to be generous, kind, thoughtful, etc. I think that there's too much variation among knitters to allow anyone to say without qualification, "Knitters are ...." any more than anyone could say "People are...."

I've seen no research which would analyze personalities of knitters. I could judge based on those I have met, but I wonder if my judgment would be skewed by my exposure to on-line knitters. There's a general assumption and some studies which assert that internet usage and shyness are related. I can understand that internet use would be considered a less social activity. However, I thought there must be some variation among those who use the internet, ranging from shy to social. I assumed that bloggers are the more social of the on-line knitters.

I looked into my theory about bloggers and found a study that tags bloggers as neurotic. That is not what I expected. Looking at the "Big Five" personality traits, this study has found a coorelation between blogging and neuroticism (defined as having a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily). There does seem to be some logic to this coorelation. After all, most bloggers are just writing about their opinions. Surely someone who often is angry, anxious, etc. would have strong opinions.

Possibly, this coorelation may not apply to knitbloggers, most of whom are blogging to show and track their knitting projects. Surely they would score equally as high in Openess (marked by appreciation for art and curiosity) and Conscientiousness (a tendency to show self-discipline and to aim for achievement). I have no proof of this, since I didn't find any study of the personality of knitbloggers.

Based on my own experience in blogging, I can see some evidence of conscientiousness. I find that putting a project in my blog motivates me to complete it, just as starting a post motivates me to rewrite it until I'm ready to publish it. I've published this one because it has been sitting in my drafts folder for several weeks. Now that the end of the year is a few days away, I suddenly want to "clean out" those old drafts.

I've got a couple of other drafts stuck in my craw and hope to either publish or delete them in the next few days. Blog traffic is very slow during the holidays, so a few contemplative posts might fit in well. The people who are traveling or otherwise away from the internet won't miss this post since it has no photos of knitting, and those who are reading probably have some spare time since they may be off work.

Now there is just one worry that is biting at the edges of this "clean out". I can see where some of these posts might be have been inspired by some emotion I was experiencing at the time. Am I fitting the correlation with neuroticism? This is getting depressing. So far I've got that knitters are strange because they get excited about knitting or neurotic when they blog about it, unsocial if they use the internet, or shy if they prefer knitting alone.

I'd much prefer to believe that knitting has been shown to calm and relieve anxiety, increase self-confidence as new skills are mastered, provide opportunities for social interaction and, if nothing else, turn out a darn good dishcloth. I'll review these old drafts and try to sift out their positive aspects. Maybe I can work them into some New Year's resolutions.

Thank you to everyone who wished me merry. I have been making merry a good bit, but still fit in some knitting. I hope you all have had a fun and pleasant holiday that included a bit of knitting.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Embossed Leaf socks, knitted

Green socks, just in time to wear for Christmas...

I was a bit worried that I would finish them in time, especially since I had to allow a couple of days for blocking and drying. It has not been good sock-drying weather here, but, nonetheless, I braved a bit of the outdoor temps to attempt a photo which shows the true, bright, emerald green of this yarn. At least there was some sun, even if the glow is a bit weak this time of year.

Sock details: Embossed Leaf Socks from Interweave Knits Favorite Socks book. Yarn is Baruffa Aerobic merino, a heavy fingering weight, maybe even a sport weight yarn knit on size 2 dpns. These socks knit up a bit on the large size, but they knit up quickly. I eliminated the last eight rows before the toe to snug them up a bit. The only modification I made was to screw up the double-stranded tubular cast-on for the first sock.

I've rewarded my efforts in completing my Christmas knitting and learning a new cast on by starting a project just for fun. I was looking at some nice versions of the Modern Quilt Wrap on blogs and on Ravelry, and wondered if the same approach could be used to make a seamless mitered-square dish towel.

Obviously, it can. This is just the beginning, the first three blocks. Nine more to go. It will be a large, 18" x 24", towel.

I'll be adding a few blocks to the dish towel. It's a free pattern, thanks to the graciousness of Interweave Knits on line downloads to Knitting Daily subscribers. I'm using leftovers from other towel projects and enjoying it a lot.
I've been weaving the ends after I finish each square. Since the backside doesn't look very neat, having bi-color garter ridges at the color changes and picked-up stitches at the edges, I figure woven-in ends won't hurt. However, I might start weaving in as I go, using the recommended tutorial.

I do wonder why I'm liking such a mish-mash of colors. Maybe I just need something bright on these dull gray days.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Knitted Guest Towel

I've completed another guest towel. I chose a different edging for this one. The edging on the first one is nice enough, but the dots of contrasting color are formed with bobbles that tend to pop in and out of the slip-stitches surrounding them, making a less-than-ideal fabric for hand drying. Cute to look at, but not totally practical.

This second version has a variation of a dot slip-stitch edging, slightly modified to make it lie flatter. I also had to use a different main color, since I didn't have any of the white Pakucho cotton left from the first towel. This color is "avocado", really more gray than green.
The Pakucho and the Blue Sky organic cotton both produce an exceptionally soft towel. I'm not sure that knitted hand towels are as good as the standard terrycloth ones. However, they work well as a guest towel, if a unique look is wanted.

The Blue Sky cotton is very loosely spun, and thus is exceptionally soft. This may mean that it won't wear well--another reason to use it for guest towels. The colors are pretty and may last longer without fading or pilling if they are washed less often than hand towels are usually.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Germans know how to short row heels.

I'm all for traveling, though it may at times be difficult. Besides being entertaining, I learn things. Heck, I even learn things from other people's trips. One of the members of my knitting group went to Germany last month. When she returned, she brought back instructions for a short-row heel. She raved about the heel, and even had a sock her German friend had knitted using the instructions. The joins were very smooth, even smoother than a wrap-and-turn short-row heel or a yarn-over heel (the one designed by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts).

The heel uses a "doublestitch" instead of the yarn over or wrap and turn. It is called a Boomerang heel. Of course, the instructions are in German. That's no problem for her (German is her first language), but presents a huge problem for me. I've looked around the internet, but can not find instructions for a boomerang heel. I did find something close, though.

The instructions I found do call the stitch that joins the short rows a doublestitch, but the heel is called a Yo Yo heel. They can be found here at Tess Knits. I don't know the differences between this and the boomerang heel. I will have to wait until I can either watch the boomerang heel being knitted or until I get translated instructions to see if there are any differences. The knitter who brought back the German instructions wasn't ready to knit socks just yet, though she will get to it soon enough, I'm sure.
Edit: I think I've figured out the yo yo and the boomerang heel and explain my theory in this post.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Piles of knitting

My Christmas knitting has grown into a tidy little pile. That's 3 neckwarmers, 3 towels, and a skirt, just fitting on a little table. The skirt isn't really a gift, it is a problem project I took over and finished for a friend. I think it counts as a gift, since the re-knit took a little over a week of my gift-knitting time. Two of the towels are the gridded towel pattern I developed--they're for the kitchen. The third towel is a bit different -- there's another look at it below.
You've seen two of the neckwarmers already. The top one was made on my rake-style knitting loom in just few days. You can see it laid out below with the second entrelac beret I've knit from the pattern in Hip Knit Hats. The neckwarmer is loomed with Karabella Margrite Bulky yarn using the zig-zag stockinette stitch. Looming yielded a double stitch fabric that works well for neckwarmers. The beret was knit from one ball of Nashua Handknits Creative Focus, a chunky yarn that worked well for this pattern. (Actually, I ran out while knitting the brim and bound off with a slightly darker gray worsted, double-stranded.) The errata for Hip Knit Hats claims the entrelac beret to be the most difficult pattern in the book, but I don't see it. It took only about three days effort to produce a striking beret that is fashionable and most flattering to wear. (In spite of that, I failed to get a nice modeled shot for you. At least there are still some bright leaves on the ground to set off the gray. I understand gray and yellow is the new hot color combo for this fall.)
Since I have yet to get buttons for the neckwarmer, a scarf pin is holding together it for now.

This towel, which you can see in the pile above, is a new detour for me. One of my giftees asked for knitted face towels. I think she meant guest towels--she mentioned something about having people over. I used an edging from Knitting over the Edge, the bubble wrap stitch, and some cream Pakucho cotton to knit this otherwise plain stockinette towel. It has a garter stitch border which you can't see here since it is folded in thirds. The bright green and yellow is Blue Sky Alpaca cotton yarn.
This simple, tasteful (I hope), knit has gotten more compliments at my knitting group than any of the other projects. That surprises me, really, but it does prove that my tastes often lead me to the more complex designs. Simplicity is always a winner.
Or it could be the pretty Blue Sky cotton--their colors really stand out.
This is all shown and said to prove that I'm still knitting things, even if the things I'm knitting don't excite me. Not that I'm not happy to knit for others. All of these and the other gifts I will knit are done by request. I don't usually knit something for someone unless I've discussed it with them first. I like to make sure people actually want my knitting. Otherwise, I'd rather knit for me. I've about reached the end of the gift knitting and am looking forward to other projects.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smilla neckwrap to knit

I was going to name this First Snow, but then I realized Smilla is better. After all, I fumbled my way through the concept when I joined the "Smidge Along" group on Ravelry last year. Combining Smidge with the thought of the first snow of the fall, that light, crusty layer of wet white that coats everything, Smilla (as in Smilla's Sense of Snow) immediately came to mind.

The pattern below produces a neckwrap that is knit in the round, laid flat, and buttoned at the bottom. The stitch I used is the first half of the stitch pattern Stacey used for her "My So-Called Scarf." There's an excellent tutorial for this stitch pattern on the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog. However, I hope that you will find my version of the stitch fairly simple and won't need the tutorial.

Smilla Neckwrap
Materials: Karabella Margrite Bulky, (80% Extrafine Merino Wool, 20% Cashmere) 50 g. (1.75 0z.), 71 meters (77 yards), about 1.5 balls per neckwrap.
Circular needle, size 15 (10 mm), 16" long. Substitutes: dpns, two circulars, a long circular for magic loop or any other means of knitting in the round. A smaller size needle can be substituted, but you might need to cast on more stitches. (I used size 15 because that is what I had in a short circular.)
Finished measurements: 4.5" wide x 24" long
Stitch Glossary
SKYOP - Slip one stitch knitwise, knit the next stitch, pass the yarn over the top of the needle and, using the left needle, pass the slipped stitch over both the knitted stitch and the yarn over.
Gauge: 7 SKYOP, 16 rows, in pattern/4 inches (or 14 stitches, 16 rows if you prefer to count a plain knit row)
Instructions: Cast on an odd number of stitches, using a provisional cast on. I cast on 31 stitches for the gray Smilla, and 29 for the brown one. Both worked well. For a provisional cast on, I use a crochet cast on and pick up stitches through the bumps on the back of the crochet chain, but any cast on that can be removed to leave you with loose stitches for a 3-needle bind-off will do.
Round 1: K1, SKYOP around.
Round 2: Knit all stitches.
Round 3: SKYOP until one stitch remains, K1.
Round 4: Knit all stitches.
Note: It is important that you start round 3 with a K1 and that you keep the same stitch count. The pair of stitches that you passed a stitch over on round 1 should be split in round 3. This is what makes the stitches spiral around. If you lose a stitch (which is easy to do if you forget a yarn over) or start every round with a knit stitch, the SKYOP stitches will stack on top of each other, leaving gaps between them.
Repeat Rounds 1-4 until neckwrap is desired length. I suggest 23 to 26", depending on the size neck you'd like to wrap. Add buttonholes as desired when the wrap is two inches shorter than desired length. See buttonhole note below. After making buttonholes (or not), continue in pattern until the piece is the desired length, ending with Round 1 or 3. Divide the stitches equally on two needles and, using a third needle, bind off with a three needle bind off. (You will have one extra stitch; just bind it off by knitting it together with another stitch.) Remove the provisional cast on, place the stitches on two needles and bind off with a three needle bind off.
Buttonholes: For this gray version, I made buttonholes by binding off one stitch and casting on one in the same place on the following row, placing four of these bound-off stitches evenly around the neckwarmer. I then matched up two of the stitches on the front and back to make two buttonholes. However, since the stitch gauge is very large, these buttonholes were too big. I crocheted around them to tighten them up--hand sewing around them in buttonhole stitch would work as well.
The smaller buttons I have for the brown version will button through the stitches, since they are knit at such a loose gauge. No buttonhole is needed. Check your buttons before you get within 2" of the end to see if you need buttonholes.
(Edited to clarify the alternating stitches and needle requirements.)
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bare, Exposed, knits

I thought I would surely have photos of snow to show you today. Instead, it is bright and sunny, and the snow remains on the distant peaks. I'm wrong again. However, it doesn't seem to be anything I should complain about.

The mountain aspens are bare, exposing their silver shapes to the sun. We stopped at just the right spot on a drive over Marshall Pass this past weekend. A little further and we would have missed spotting this hornet's nest:

I've never seen one in-real-life before. It was huge, but there was no sign of life to it, just a few bits of loose fiber and leaves that fluttered in the breeze.

Speaking of loose fiber, all the bloggers are posting their Rhinebeck purchases now. Many of them bought Socks that Rock yarn. Thinking that maybe some of them might consider knitting what they bought (stashed Socks that Rock outnumber knitted up Socks that Rock 2 to 1 on Ravelry), I've got a couple of socks links:

Gorgeous top down version of Fleegle's toe-up heel

Drunken Bees Socks--see what they really look like and read how hard they are

Excellent version of a linen stitch scarf on Ravelry.

Up here, I'm continuing the Christmas gift knitting. I'll have a little neckwrap pattern next up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Winter soon; knit now

In my last post, I lamented about missing the peak of fall color. It was easy to see where all the pretty leaves had gone--all I had to do was look down. I've since discovered a fascination for the subtle differences in these fallen beauties, some red, some silvery-green, some tinged with brown, and many mottled combinations of these colors. I've spent some time just sorting through the bounty of fallen leaves, admiring the variations.

Then, when I look up, I can see the first snowfall has coated the peaks with white. They make a nice backdrop for The Castles which stand above the aspens west of Ohio Creek.

This week, the weather has been outstanding. I wake each morning to clear, blue skies and walk in the cool, still air, listening to the geese honk as they come in for a landing on the nearby pastures. I'm determined to walk every day, because I know that my days of walking outdoors are soon to end. As soon as next week, we may get snow here. Not just snow to look up at, but snow right at our doorstep. I'm not much for walking in snow. I'd much rather curl up in front of the fire and knit.

With the imminent change in the weather on my mind, I've been keeping track of patterns and mentally organizing my stash of yarn.

One pattern that really grabbed me was this excellent reinterpretation of last year's popular pidge-style neckwarmer: Brioche neckwarmer

I was so taken with it, once I figured out how I'd like my version, I cast on and finished it in just three days. I used Brooks Farm Solana on size 5 needles (two sizes smaller than what works for stockinette in this yarn, making it narrower and slightly more tightly knit. The lucky combination of my stashed Solana and brioche stitch produced a lofty, squishy, bury-your-fingers softness better than anything else I've knit. This yarn and stitch pattern are so happy together, they're permanently married, convenant marriage style--no breakups for this duo.

For me, however, the garter stitch edging tenten used just didn't work. Mine looked messy, and I wanted something neater. I considered alternatives, but my edge-less swatch looked nice enough. After much dithering about it, considering adding an applied i-cord edging in gray after I've finished, or using some other type of selvedge stitch, I just knit it plain, sans edging. I also reduced the cast on from 30 stitches to 20, casting on in k1, p1, knitting for 24 or so inches, adding two buttonholes a couple of inches from the end, and then switching back to k1, p1 before casting off. I found the Brioche Stitch website most helpful for these decisions.

Waiting patiently behind this neckwrap and yet another I've started is the beginning of another towel, a guest towel this time. I've got a nice edging from one of Nicky Epstein's Knitting on, or over or something books, lots of cotton yarns and a couple of ideas. I may be able to concoct another simple pattern to post, along with the pattern for yet another neckwrap I have in progress.

If you'd like to see a finished photo of the alpaca cowl, or details on the neck things, check here on the Ravelry project I created for them.

On our recent drive, K noticed that the aspen leaves hung up in the little evergreens, making them look as though they were decorated for Christmas. I know the holiday is not far off, so I'm knitting small gifts now, hoping to get everything I have planned done early this year. While looking for patterns, I found this cute seasonally-inspired scarf pattern--Christmas Garland Scarf . I haven't yet found an excuse to make one, but it is a cute idea.

I'm gathering up my knitting and heading out for more long drives in the beautiful weather this weekend. I'll be curled up in front of the fire soon enough.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohio Creek to Keebler Pass

One of the best fall drives in Colorado lies between Gunnison and Crested Butte. It's the Ohio Creek road to Ohio Pass. The road turns to dirt after a few miles of wandering between large homes and ranches, but remains very drivable. We enjoyed a beautiful drive up to the pass and over to Crested Butte last week.

We were lucky to have perfect weather; unlucky to have missed the peak of the yellow leaves. Obligations and bad guesses made us miss the best of the Colorado fall. Last year, the leaves didn't turn until October. This year, they turned a couple of weeks earlier.

Never mind, there were still plenty clinging to the trees.

After we got to Ohio Pass, we turned left on the main road to Crested Butte. Keebler Pass is just around the next bend. The old cemetery there is worth a visit; I blogged about it last year. It looks the same, but this time I noticed some graves from more recent years, a seeming contradiction to the statement on a large memorial that the cemetery was abandoned in the 1880's.

In keeping with the fall colors, my knitting projects are in Autumnal hues. I've finished the pair of burgundy socks and a simple cowl in alpaca about the hue of the plant in the foreground in this third photo.

(I hope you enjoy these scenes. Sometimes I feel like the proverbial camera nut who comes back from vacay and forces picture viewing on friends and family. I'm encouraged by postitive comments I have gotten, so I keep posting scenic photos. As always, my photos can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on them.)

These two projects are both destined to be Christmas gifts. I've got several more gifts planned. Notably, in the last photo, an orange cowl is in the conceptual stage.

That is, I've bought the yarn. It's Jil Eaton Minnow Merino, a luscious single of incomparable softness and loft. It claims to knit to a standard 18 sts/4", so I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a pattern.

I knit the simple cowl first as a test, following the pattern for the Pashmina Cowl in Knitted Gifts. It is a Pash-paca version, using the 2 hanks of Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight I bought on sale at the Aspen Yarn Studio. This yarn is as soft as cashmere, but has a little more character. Loosely plied, it looks a little bumpy when knit. I started out on a size 3 circular, but have switched to size 4, hoping for more drape. I cast on only 100 stitches instead of the 130 called for, since this yarn knits at a larger gauge than the pattern yarn. The larger gauge means it used less yardage, so two hanks were enough.

I consider this a "test" cowl because I'm not sure how popular cowls are in the non-knitting universe. I see cowls everywhere on knit blogs and on Ravelry, but I've never seen anyone wearing one, either on the street or in the movies or on tv. Are they really going to be as popular as it seems? Lots of knitters are making them, but who's wearing them? I will just have to wait and see what the trends are this winter. In the meantime, I'll finish this one and block it. If I like it, I'll make another. If not, I'll stick to neckwarmers or short scarves.

Either way I've got several patterns possibilities all lined up and will share the links with you in my next post.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Sky over Ohio Creek

It's Saturday; here's to the sky--

I took this quick shot through the sunroof on a recent trip. It seemed perfect for a Saturday Sky post, even though I don't usually do those. We finally got done with the work that has engulfed my life and my knitting time for the past few weeks. I think I'll take the weekend off.

This photo was taken on Ohio Creek Road between Gunnison and Crested Butte, on the way to Keebler Pass. The leaves are almost gone, nearly taking the fall color with them. Thank goodness we caught a little of it before it was too late. I'll be blogging fall color next week!

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Knitting socks for tender feet

I was so proud of one of my early pair of socks that I brought them with me while visiting friends this summer. Our host was very interested in them, so much so that I told him he could try them on. It was quite funny, seeing him put them on, pink toes and heels, brown and green yarn and all. He explained that he has very short feet for a man and that his socks always wrinkle up under his feet, making them quite uncomfortable. I didn't really believe him, but we compared, and his foot is the same size as mine. (I wear a women's size 7 1/2 shoe.)

Naturally, I immediately jumped on the idea of knitting him a pair of socks. Then, he commented that he found my hand-knit socks unconfortable because he could "feel the bumps on the bottom." He admitted he has very sensitive soles. I was more than a little concerned then than I would not be able to knit a pair of wool socks that he would find totally comfortable. Nonetheless, I have taken on the challenge.

First, I consulted Ravelry, and was rewarded with helpful advice, offered in this thread on the Sock Knitters Anonymous discussion board. I planned at the outset to purl the soles of the socks, putting the smoother stockinette side against his sensitive soles. Commonly known as a "Princess Sole", this technique is a bit more troublesome, but makes a more comfortable sock.
I knit this sock from the top down, and planned to use a slip-stitch pattern to make it similar to the socks my friend had tried and liked. However, the Wildfoote yarn I chose is too splitty to work well with any stitch more complicated than plain knits and purls. The pattern I originally selected began with a k3, p1 cuff. When I decided against doing the slipstitch, I simply continued the cuff pattern on down the leg. About halfway through the leg, I realized that although the k3, p1 ribbing was smooth on the outside but produced a "bumpy" inside. I was afraid that the single k1 rib would rub against my friend's leg and irritate his sensitive skin.
After all, a person with tiny little feet and such sensitive soles must have tender skin on his leg, too.
When I began the heel flap, I turned the sock inside out, placing the smoother k3 side of the knitting to the inside. Now I can't decide if I should call these Socks for the Tenderfoot or Inside-out Socks.
About a half-inch before the heel, I added an additional purl stitch to the pattern, making a k1, p1 section across the instep to allow more stretch there. Once I knit the heel, I continued this k1, p1 for another half-inch before switching to plain stockinette for the foot.
You can get a better view of the pattern I used for the heel and the Princess Sole here. It continues the slip stitches for the heel under the arch of the foot, then purls the sole. I'm sorry I can't model this sock for you. It is a bit too short to fit properly. I was so eager to see if the Wildfoote yarn softened up after washing that I knit the toe too soon. The Wildfoote does soften a bit, but it doesn't grow much after washing and blocking. Once I get a better fitting second sock knit, I will rip out the toe of this one and reknit it to match. You'll see modeled photos then.
Of course, such a plain knit sock is not that interesting or inventive. I've provided these details here in case you have a tenderfoot that needs socks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

knit Gridded Towel pattern

Note:  This pattern was made available as a pdf download through Ravelry in May of 2017.  I have added the link to the pattern pdf below but temporarily retained the casual pattern instructions here.

I've finished the second Gridded Towel, using Pakucho cotton in Vicuna (beige) as the main color with a variegated kitchen cotton (Peaches & Creme, potpourri) as the contrasting color. I'll explain how I did it so you can make your own.

This is a very simple towel pattern that requires at a minimum two colors of yarn. I use primarily kitchen-grade cotton yarn, such as Peaches & Creme, Sugar 'n Cream, or Pakucho cotton. You'll need 2 balls of about 85 yards each for the main color and almost two balls of the contrast color. You can mix different brands of yarn as long as they are the same weight. These yarns all knit to about 20 stitches/4" in stockinette. I use a size 7 needle. I prefer either Bryspun, Balene, or wooden needles--anything that is more flexible than metal will be easier on your hands.

Cast on 87 stitches. This will produce a towel about 16" wide if your gauge is similar. It will shrink with use, especially if you machine wash and tumble dry your towel as I do, and will soon be only 15" wide.

Click here to view and download this pattern in or use the link below for an immediate download.

download Gridded Towel Pattern

The original pattern instructions:

Using a long-tail cast-on and the main color, knit three rows so that the beginning has two garter ridges. You're going to alternate garter and stockinette, changing colors every two rows so that you have three stockinette panels for the border. Here it is in pattern speak:

A=main color
B=contrast color

Border Pattern:

Rows 1-3: knit all stitches with A

Row 4: knit all stitches with B

Row 5: purl all stitches with B

Rows 6-7: knit all stitches with A

Repeat Rows 4-7 twice more. Begin gridded stitch, maintaining 10 stitches on either side in the border pattern.

Gridded Stitch:

Row 1: *slip 1, knit 2*, repeat to border, ending with slip 1, using B

Row 2: *slip 1, purl 2*, repeat to border, ending with slip 1, using B

Row 3 & 4: knit all stitches with A

Confused? Here it is, the same pattern, less speak, more numbers:

Gridded Stitch:

Row 1: With B, k10, *sl1, k2* 22 times, sl1, k10.

Row 2: p10, *sl1, p2* 22 times, sl1, p10.

Row 3 & 4: With A, k across.

Knit the center section until the towel is about 20 inches long, then work the border pattern again for three stockinette panels, ending with three rows of knit stitches in A and binding off on the wrong side so that it looks like the beginning border. This will give you a towel about 22" long. (Mine took 38 gridded stockinette panels, plus the 3 beginning stockinette panels and the 3 ending ones to reach 22".)

That's all you need to do to have a simple and effective, soft and nubbly kitchen towel for hand-drying, plate-wiping or waving around. (Ever have a smoky kitchen because you burned the toast? Just wave a damp towel around to dispel the smoke quickly.) This towel does the trick, and it looks good as well. It even looks ok on the back side.

For variation, try substituting any slip-stitch pattern in the middle section, as long as you can change colors every two rows. If you want a less colorful towel, use a solid color yarn for the contrast color, or change the contrast colors in a repeating pattern, as I did in the first version.

For the first towel, I changed colors in the stockinette panels as follows:

4 white panels

5 cream panels

6 yellow panels

7 caramel panels

6 white panels

5 cream panels

4 yellow panels

3 caramel panels

4 white panels

Using this sequence of colors will guarantee that you end with three stockinette panels for the border and the ends of your towel will match. It also gives you the 38 gridded panels you need to produce a 22" long towel.

Done! Yay! Wave your towel around to clear the air as you imagine more variations.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Am I a sock knitter?

I've finished my sixth pair of socks, using the Leyburn sock pattern and Fannie's Fingering Weight yarn by Farmhouse Yarns. These were my first toe-up socks. As a result of my unfamilarity with the method, they are not as technically correct or as well-fitted as some of the others. Nonetheless, they are a pretty pair of socks. Both the yarn and the pattern are great, and together you've got a winner.

I've swatched for my seventh pair of socks, but am unhappy with the result. My sock knitting is momentarily on hold, and I'm taking this moment to evaluate.

When I started this blog last year, I wrote often about knitting socks--but I never published what I wrote. It was, I was sure, offensive. I'm putting some of those old thoughts in here, unedited, and I'm worried that even in that context they are still offensive. If you do take offense, I hope you can look past the offense and see how my thinking has evolved as I became familar with sock knitting.

Up until this year, I had never knit a sock, even though I started out by knitting slippers, many years ago. The slippers were basically knitted squares, sewn together. I have a dim memory of reading a pattern for socks and not understanding the phrase "turn the heel". I immediately lost interest in knitting socks and stuck to knitting squares.

Turn the clock ahead a couple of decades, and you could find me reading knitting blogs and starting my own. At that time, I wrote the following:

Ok, I think every blog can have one. Here's my disclaimer: No socks were knit in the production of this blog.

Now, I understand socks. I have bought sock yarn. I have discussed taking sock knitting classes. I have even bought wool socks. To be technically correct, they were called mohair socks. I mean, can you imagine something more itchy? Well, maybe mohair underwear. But I thought mohair socks would be itchy, and I was wrong. So I completely understand that there is very pretty, very soft, altogether lovely, sock yarn out there to be bought. And that hand knit wool socks are scrumptious to wear. I will probably knit socks someday. I would likely enjoy a sock knitting class.

Since I wrote that, I have reviewed it several times, usually when I considered knitting a pair of socks. I did not publish it because I didn't want to offend my fellow knitters, especially since almost every knit blogger I read knits socks. I didn't know if a sock knitter would find my disinterest in sock knitting offensive, I just assumed she or he would.

Soon, something I read dispelled my doubts about knitters taking offense.

One of the more famous knit bloggers posted an entry about sweater knitters, making generalized statements about them. Offended by its tone and especially by the comments, I wrote the following:

However, I feel the gauntlet has been thrown down. Suddenly, to my complete astonishment, sweater knitting is disparged by sock knitters. Some even feel the need to defend scarf knitting. Bag knitting is praised. Ya know, what the heck is wrong with knitting whatever you want? Of course, the answer is nothing. Nothing whatsoever. The problem is not what you knit, it is how you present what you knit. That speaks. It is not the knitting of socks that bothers me.

My beef is the blogging of socks.

There is incessant, constant, repetitive, redundant, blogging about sock knitting in the knitting blog world. If you don't believe me, just Google it, or use whatever search tool you prefer. Search for "hand knit ...." or "knit ...." and change the last word. Check the "total results." "Hand knit scarf" vs. "hand knit sweater" vs. "hand knit hat" vs. "hand knit mittens", whatever you use, "hand knit socks" outnumbers them all. In most cases, 2 to 1.

To be understanding, I realize that the blog world demands FOs. And that socks are pretty quickly knit, in most cases. They are the perfect blog fodder.

Just not here.

I'm not excited to read about sock knitting. I admit, next year, or whenever I get addicted to sock knitting, I will seek out sock knitters blogs and avidly wait for the next post about socks. I will eagerly take pictures of my nearly-completed sock and post it on my blog. I will buy tons of sock yarn and dozens of sock knitting books.

Just not now.

It is obvious to me upon re-reading this excerpt, that I took a good deal of offense at the comments about sweater knitters. After all, I was knitting a lot of sweaters by then, and I was personally appalled that another knitter would make negative comments about "sweater knitters". I was angry, and also frustrated that I saw so many blog entries about socks that I couldn't understand. I finally decided not to publish it because I knew it would just add to the dissension between sweater-knitters and sock-knitters. Now it is part of my story, and the points I made actually then are actually turning back on me, as you will see.

Back to my chronicle of socks...

I had made unwise yarn purchases. I had bought a lot of variegated yarn, and some of it was sock yarn. I also had a good bit of fingering weight yarn that was a little too itchy for shawls or scarves. There was nothing to do with the yarn but to knit socks. Once I realized that most sock patterns tell you how to turn a heel, rather than just saying "turn the heel", like that long-ago pattern, it was easy.

I actually thought I might just knit a few socks and not put them on the blog. Then I chose a lace sock pattern for my second pair. Those socks took a long time to knit, so I caved and posted them.

Shortly afterwards, I wrote the following:

Except that I put up one pair of finished socks and got 12 comments telling me how beautiful they were. I just put up a lace cashmere scarf and then a sweater, and got one then two comments.

Hmmmm. You can see how that was a relevation to me. Since then, I have decided to blog about socks. I've been posting socks whenever I finish them, along with my other FOs. Now I'm going a step further and reviving some of my old thoughts about socks, and blogging about sock knitting.

 I don't have any new thoughts about sock knitting. I've done it, I like the finished product, I've learned a good bit. I'm a little like someone at the beginning of a relationship. I'm dating sock knitting. I haven't committed yet. Only time will tell if sock-knitting and I will live happily ever after together or if we will go our separate ways.

I still have my doubts. It takes a lot to knit a sock: fairly expensive yarn, hours of knitting, tiny little cumbersome needles. (I know how to knit on dpns, on magic loop and on two circulars. I find all three methods of knitting small circles more cumbersome than knitting a large circle on one circular needle or knitting a rectangle on straight needles.) I'll reserve judgement as to the worth of sock knitting until I see how the 5 pairs of socks I have knit for this winter wear.

I do have a new attitude toward blogging about socks. I like to read about socks. I enjoy seeing someone else's hand-knit socks. I'm interested in the patterns and the variations. I've bought books on sock knitting, not many, just three, but I like the ones I've bought. I'm looking forward to learning more about sock knitting.

I'm sure that this story I'm trying to tell is like a parable. There's a moral here somewhere. I thought sock-knitting was a waste of time. I didn't care to see hand-knit socks. I held a poor opinion of the people who knit them.

All that has changed, simply because I tried it. Now I understand. I walked that mile in hand-knit socks and my eyes have been opened. I've learned because I've tried something new, and I've gained understanding with that learning.

 ETA:  Since I wrote this, all of these socks have worn out.  I've knitted new ones to replace them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Llama farm visit

Our local knitting guild was treated to a tour of a llama farm. This was a special treat, since the llamas were incredibly tame. They gave "kisses", which is to say that they gently nuzzle your face, to see how you smell. They are even more familar with their owner, adding a gentle (I hope it was) chin nip to the nuzzle. Her back scratches are welcomed and enjoyed to an extreme when the right spot is scratched.

My only other contacts with llamas has been as guards for alpacas. I've heard stories of their ferocity in defending the flock, so I was surprised to see how gentle these animals can be.

These llamas enjoy their days in a meadow which is graced by a view of the mountains.

Of course, it is not so bucolic as it seems. Life can be hard for llamas and the farmer, who have to cope with coyotes and poison weeds. Then there's the winter here, which can be intensely cold and snowy. The llamas have barns and hay to help them through.

Interesting llama lore: These llamas are sheared standing up; it's just the owner's preference. She puts them in a squeeze chute and shears them with scissors. She used to use hand shears, but found it too difficult to find some place to sharpen them.

Male llamas have sharp, curved "fighting" teeth that have to be cut or clipped off. The squeeze chute helps here, too, although we were assured that there are no nerves in these teeth and the llamas don't feel it when they are removed.

There's alpacas, too. Lots of them.

These alpacas were sheared by the shearer this year. That meant they were stretched out flat and tied while being sheared. This didn't sit too well with the farmer and her gentle approach to her animals, but it was effective.

The result is seen in these bags and bags of fleece, all of which has to be sorted and picked clean before it is boxed and sent off to be processed.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blocking Cherry Blossom Shawl

Blocking the shawl was quite a pleasant task. It didn't take much more than an hour. After soaking it, I laid it out on a queen-size bed and began by placing pins in each of the 128 points of the edging. I pinned down a few points on one side, then a few points immediately opposite those. A little rearranging got the shawl into a rough circle measuring 44" in diameter.

Placing more pins around, I worked to make the shawl as circular as possible. This task was hampered by the construction of the shawl. The lack of increases in the outer band of the body places a lot of stress in the last few repeats. Until I got the shawl stretched out as much as possible, there was a good bit of slack in the center. The center has frequent increases, allowing it to lay very flat. In fact, before blocking, the center was obviously larger than the outer edge, giving the shawl a bowl shape. In spite of this, I was able to get the shawl to flatten out, since the lace pattern in the outer body has a lot of horizontal stretch. I would still prefer an increase row somewhere about the 8th repeat of the twelve repeats of Chart C. A little more fabric there would make the shawl easier to block.

Once everything was flattened out, I was able to position the exact center of the shawl 22" from one pin and pin the center down. Now all I had to do was to work around, placing pins in all the points exactly 22" from that center pin. As I did this, I came to one point that "slipped". Oops! "What the heck was that?", I wondered. Rather than try to figure out what was wrong, I pinned down a couple of loose stitches and worked my way on around. I didn't have time to worry about it. I needed the wool to be wet so it would stretch as much as possible. The shawl was drying, in spite of my placing a damp cloth over the areas I hadn't pinned yet.

After it was thoroughly dry, I left it pinned as long as I could. Finally, worry about those loose stitches drove me to unpin the messed-up point. Imediately, a stitch began to run down the border, around the shawl. I pinned it down. I mean, I stabbed that running stitch as quick as I could. It was fairly simple then to pick it back up with a crochet hook.

There was a matching loose loop above the stitch. As near as I can figure, I dropped a stitch in the border about 20 repeats from the end. I was tired of knitting the border, and was rushing a bit. I never noticed the dropped stitch because the border changes stitch counts every right side row. I just assumed I was on the wrong row (since I had given up on clicking a row counter every 9 or 10 stitches, I had no way of verifying the row number). I knit the same two rows twice, producing an increase to balance that dropped stitch. The yarn was sticky enough to hang up the dropped stitch in the other stitches. I didn't see it. It didn't run until the blocking put tension on it.

Thank goodness I caught it and was able to bring it back up to the point. Then the only way I knew to fix it was to sew it in place. Since then, I used some of the left over yarn and my smallest crochet hook to chain around the point, successfully camouflauging the error. This dropped stitch and the ladders in the middle of the shawl from the dpns are the only two problems I had with the largest, laciest thing I've ever knit. The ladders stretched out horizontally, but they are still noticeable. (They are visible in the photos above--just click on them to see a larger version.) I've thought of sewing beads over that area, but I don't want to add too much extra weight.

I figure that if I use it as a tablecloth, I will put a vase in the center to cover the ladders. If I wear it, I will fold the shawl over to cover them. Maybe as I learn more about knitting, I'll figure out a way to fix them.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cherry Blossom Harmony

Brrr, that wind feels cold. I think I'll put on my shawl.

You see, I finished the Cherry Blossom Shawl last week. It took five days to finish the border, which was not my favorite part. I much preferred knitting the body, cruising through the long, endless rounds of knitting with no purls. The lace repeat for each row was easy to memorize, and was followed by a plain knit row. That made for over 750 stitches (in the outer body chart, fewer in the inner ones, of course) I could knit without consulting the chart. My use of frequent stitch markers helped me to knit the entire body without any mistakes. However, the border was knit back and forth over six rows of 7 to 9 stitches each. I memorized the border chart (eventually), but lack of concentration meant confusion about which row I was on (it just wasn't practical to use a row counter for such short rows). I made mistakes that had to be tinked back out. Towards the end, I made a mistake that nearly did in the border. I'll tell you about that in my next post, when I critique the pattern and talk about the blocking.

The blocking was the same lace blocking miracle you've heard of elsewhere. It is worth all the knitting just to have the mind-changing experience of seeing a 32" springy, cushy mass of knitting evolve into a 42" circle of air and color. The shawl still has a cushy feel and retains enough body to hold the pattern and points., but now it drapes and floats in the wind.

I was pleasantly surprised at the size. I expected that knitting a lighter-than-lacweight yarn on needles several sizes smaller than recommended would produce a smaller shawl. It did, but only a couple of inches smaller than the pattern size. Considering that it took only 875 yards of Jojoland Harmony yarn, at a cost of $9, this shawl is quite a bargain. It is quite versatile--it works as a cloth for my small table,

and fits me as well.

Does my pose look strange? I was pretending to pick crabapples from our tree. (That's a farce--they're not really edible, even after cooking, so I leave them for the deer.) I had the full shot posted, but this cropped one focuses more on the shawl, which is really my focus here. Look down at the bottom edge and you will see the transition from the rosy-peach to aqua-blue. That color change, which evolves slowly around the border, was the reason I hesitated to knit the border in the same yarn as the body. I thought the color changes in the yarn would produce stripes. Instead, as I finished up the body, I realized that the short repeats would stretch the colors out more. The border started out aqua and changed ever so slowly to purple and finally to rose. The final bit was peach trying to change to gold. Before it got there, I had to join it to the aqua beginning, making one little bump in the smooth color changes.

I'll explain this and other bumps in the shawl knitting next post. For now, I'll just enjoy gazing at the shawl, and finish this with the stitch counts. I'm putting this at the end so that those that find the numbers too boring, or too daunting, can skip it.

A Cherry Blossom Shawl has a total of 54,528 stitches; 440 in Chart A, 9,800 in Chart B, 36,864 in Chart C, and a mere 7,424 in the chart for the border. I took 20 days to knit the body of the shawl, knitting on it for two to three hours each day, and another 5 days to knit the border (with an hour or two of knitting each day).

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