Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Circles, cows and handknit socks (again!)

There's a small herd of longhorn cattle on the edge of town. Usually they range across a large field, well out of camera reach. Last Saturday, on my way to the yarn shop, a few of them were idling along the fence line.

This black and white beauty seemed especially disposed to being photographed. I told her how gorgeous she was, how pretty her picture would be. (Growing up on a cattle farm might have something to do with my talking to cows.) In response, she struck a pose.

She really worked it. As proof, after I snapped a few shots, praising her all the while, I called "Thank you!" At that, she turned away and began grazing. Obviously, she and the others in the herd are used to modeling.

The backdrop for these two is Mt. Shavano. I've mentioned the "angel" on this mountain before. After the snow melts a little, she'll be visible in between the two peaks on the right, for the first time in the decade. Prior to the last snowfall, the first decent one of 2010, she was looking a bit too slim.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Ring on, Bells of Ireland cardigan

Halt the socks! I've actually knit a wearable sweater.

It's a tremendous relief and a moderate pleasure to have remade one of my recent failures into a success. The yarn from my Scoop Pullover has now become the Bells of Ireland cardigan, from the recent Winter '09 issue of Interweave Knits. Since I used yarn I purchased from The Fibre Company's booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool a couple of years ago, I wanted to use the buttons I bought from Moving Mud's booth that same day. These four buttons determined the length of my version of this cardigan.

It's the hip-skimmer I wanted, with sleeves that fall at about the same level. I'm terribly happy about it--that it came out, that it looks OK, that it is done. The best compliment I can give it is that I rushed taking these photos so I could put it into use. I like it, and I need the warmth. In fact, it really wasn't warm enough for the outdoor photos. I suffered out there, especially since I like the sweater better unbuttoned. These mountains are pretty cold in January. At least we got a little bit of snow to dress things up.

I think I know why this cardigan looks better open. There's a problem with the sleeve construction. The bottom of the armhole is narrow and the raglan line is long, limiting the ease under the arms. I'd guess that more decreases on either side of the sleeve immediately after joining for the yoke would help. Decreasing sooner would shorten the distance to the shoulder, bringing the underarm up. While the shaping may work for the very short cardigan of the pattern specs, it is a noticeable fault for the longer version I knit. It would be easy to correct, though. I suspected there would be an issue when I saw the pattern image, but I wasn't sure why the armholes are so deep until I worked through the instructions.

Not that I can't wear it buttoned. It just doesn't look as nice or feel as comfortable. I've put a photo of it buttoned on my Ravelry project page, along with more details about the sweater and its sleeves, rather than exposing all here.

The buttons do deserve some exposure. Moving Mud's glass buttons and shawl pins are works of art. No wonder that I had to buy some when I first came across them at the festival. It's more that the buttons made me knit a sweater to put them on rather that the appropriate way, that I found the right buttons for a sweater I knit.

Still, they are a decent match, with their swirly bluish bits. They offer a lot of color options for coordinating t-shirts.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knit to begin 20-10

My first finished knit of the year is, I'm rather sad to say, a pair of socks. Regardless of my hope to have a year filled with knitting projects begun on impulse and continued past exhaustion, I couldn't ignore obligation. After all, someone who earned a PhD in engineering deserves a small tribute to her achievement.

I chose Nancy Bush's Anniversary Sock pattern, a small fob to my desire for extreme knitting. It has some out-there elements, being her tribute to a style in fashion over a hundred years ago. The leg is longer than I usually knit, even though it is one repeat shorter than the pattern sample.

The lace pattern is very simple and was a breeze. I had no trouble memorizing it, especially since I did have trouble with the first sock that required ripping and reknitting the pattern until it was burned in my brain. The yarn just wasn't the best match for the pattern, being a rather rough, inelastic wool. The inelasticity demanded a larger sock than I originally cast on. J. Knits sock yarn, selected for its color rather than texture, just isn't equal to the Regia Silk Bush's pattern recommends. The color is nice, though, being a bit greener than what you see here, a light aqua that shows off the crossed stitches and eyelets that grace the front of the sock.

I changed the standard heel flap to a boomerang short-row heel, not wanting to interrupt the smooth stockinette of the back. My first version of this heel narrowed to 8 stitches. That pointy heel, plus the tightness of the instep, forced me to frog the first sock I completed. It was too tight across the instep, meaning it would slip down when worn. The second sock, with 12 stitches across the bottom of the heel and two more stitches in the leg, was a better fit, prompting me to knit the third version to match. Knitting three full socks to get a pair fulfilled my desire for extreme knitting in this project. I don't resent the extra effort. She earned her PhD, the least I can do is knit her a pair of socks that fit.

In other exciting knit news, yoking has commenced on the Bells of Ireland cardigan. Now that I can see it together, I'm seized with longing to get it done. One day I think it will be too short, the next, just right. It lacks two more repeats of the bells, then the garter stitch edging. I am hoping it hits the top of my hips, but I fear it will end above my waist. While I might have had enough yarn to make it longer, the four special buttons I kept aside for this yarn were the real limitation. Just four little buttons, spaced as far apart as I dared. Perhaps I should have knitted more on the bottom and left that part buttonless. As it is, besides going short on the sweater, I let the sweater length dictate sleeve length. I'm afraid sleeves that are much longer than the sweater will make monkey arms.

Meanwhile, the conclusion of the blue socks left an opening for more, and more fun, socks. Impulsively, I cast on for stripes in two colorways of Zauberball.

I'm playing like mad with this one, not using a pattern at all. I find the black/red stripes exciting, but am stumped by the monotony of the white/rust stripes. I tried using up the white in the boomerang heel, producing an abrupt change in color with the tan stripe after the heel. There's more craziness in there, with contrasting boomerang rows and multiple treatments of the seam stitches. I hope this yarn frogs well. I'll knit each sock differently--there's enough yarn for four. Once I get one I like, I can rip out the unsatisfactory ones and reknit them to match.

ETA: this sock evolved into my Burning Stripes pattern.  See the link on the sidebar under "Patterns".

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Collecting Interweave Knits

Over a year ago, I posted about my search for back issues of Interweave Knits. The search was fairly successful in that I was only missing a few issues (9). I was content.

Come this year, around birthday time, I fell victim to desire once more. I decided to collect them all.

There they are, more than 50 issues. It was fairly easy, but not cheap.  I had some duplicates (below), but these were quickly distributed to other IK fans.

ETA:  Back issues of IK are now available digitally.  I'm not sure how far back they go, but I hope they will eventually digitize them all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2009 was a good trip

All through last year, my Subaru brought me to: 12 historic buildings; 11 bucks and magpies; 10 fourteeners; 9 bells a ringing; 8 rafters winning; 7 llamas lleaping; 6 room cottage; 5 feathered headless chicken; 4 burros beaming; 3 lost deer; 2 lilacs blooming; and a lift ride by the flocked fir trees.

I left out the cadillacs, but you can sub them for the lilacs if you like the sound of it better.

While riding along in said Subaru, I was mostly knitting. 34 items, in fact, during 2009. I thought of doing a recap of the items, the best, the worst, the most worn, the worn-out. However, the best are in the "finished items" slide show on my blog and the worst are best forgotten. As far as the most worn, my favorites seem to be the ones I knitted at the beginning of the year. Either my knitting skills are diminishing (hope not!) or it takes a while before I learn to love what I knit.

Never mind all that. I'm using the old knits and must knit more.

Note:  Some, if not all of the 12 posts I linked above may be gone now.  I've edited my blog, eliminating the less popular posts and photos.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

(Ne) Wheeling Along

Happy New Year! I'm ushering in the new decade with my feet up in newly re-heeled socks.

I usually try to keep plain titles on my posts, but I couldn't resist making a play on words to announce that I re-heeled a hand-knit sock. Besides a small tutorial, I'll also take my annual run at new year's assessments and resolutions. After all, it is all about my knitting.

Actually, this pair of socks is only a year old, declared finished in December '08. A hole appeared in the heel at the beginning of December '09. There's a simple explanation as to why they wore through so quickly--they are not knit with sock yarn. This is sport weight 100% merino wool, (Baruffa Aerobic knit in the Embossed Leaves pattern.) I wasn't upset to see the hole. I had long ago decided I don't want to darn my socks. Rather, I'll just knit new heels, since I can pretty much guarantee that's where they will wear through first. First, I cut out the old heel and put the loose stitches on dpns.

My next step was to knit an after-thought or Peasant heel with the leftover yarn I had kept for this purpose. It was simple, just like knitting a standard toe with two decreases on each side. I shouldn't have done it this way, since I was replacing a heel flap and gusset. Because of the gusset shaping, there are 80 stitches on the needles in this part of a 64-stitch sock. I ended up not only with a very roomy heel, but with a heel that didn't match the one in the other sock.

However, I'm not bothered by that. I have sizeable ankles and like a roomy heel. A peasant heel is quick and easy. It ends with only a few stitches to graft together at the point of the heel, rather than 40 stitches to graft if I had knit a matching heel flap and turn. I suppose the other heel will wear out soon enough. When it does, I'll replace it with a heel that matches the new one.

As prep for that, I'll note here that since the center of the peasant heel is a few stitches closer to the toe, I widened the decrease band (k2tog, k2, ssk) to make it begin where the instep separates from the heel. I then moved the decreases closer together in the last few rows, rounding off the decrease band before grafting. It was very easy to see when to stop decreasing. I just put the dpns together. When the opposite sides met nicely, I finished up with a couple of rounds shifting the decrease one stitch closer to the center, then I grafted the remaining stitches (2 sets of 12) together.

Although I never thought I'd be repairing hand-knit socks this year, I'm no longer surprised at the unexpected tasks I undertake each year. I looked back at my blog posts from the past two New Year's days, expecting to find resolutions broken, expectations unmet. Thankfully, I was wrong. Although I haven't accomplished every task I had planned (those afghan projects still beckon from their dusty corners), I didn't break any resolutions. The first year, I resolved to center my knitting, not to take on too many or too difficult tasks. The second year, I resolved to be less obsessive about my knitting and to enjoy it more.

These simple resolutions I've achieved without effort. More notably, I resolved not to knit any gifts unless they were requested. I smile now when reading that, since I'm surprised to find that there are now three of my dear ones requesting hand-knit socks. (A third sock fan voiced his plea this week, making the count 3 and 0--3 people given socks, all asking for more.)

I resolved to take on new challenges. I consider the fact that I was a hesitant participant in NaKniSweMoDo and still managed to complete 12 sweaters satisfactory accomplishment of this resolution. However, I wanted the challenges to expand beyond knitting. How about controlling my high blood pressure problem with careful thought and practice, eliminating the need for medication?--I'll take that.

I also resolved to rip out my knitting and fix my mistakes. Besides the simple fixes, I've ripped out the last two sweaters I've knit and am already reknitting one of them.

Today, I thought I'd list my plans for the new year. Instead, I'm basking in self-congratulations and self-satisfaction, patting my shoulder with smug appreciation of my minor accomplishments. I've been looking back at the last decade, amazed at where I am. I only hope I can travel as far, both literally and mentally, in the next.

Thanks so much for following along with me, a stranger. I appreciate the attention and time you give my ramblings. I know you're reading, even if you don't comment. Admittedly, I've lost interest in making the somewhat expected polite response to the comments, but I do still enjoy getting them.

I think of the coming year, knowing I could plan, but plans, no matter how well-made, are so often undone.

To prove that point, I'll finish with this last photo:

The first lovely pair of socks I knit, representing many painstaking hours of wrangling tiny loops with uncooperative dpns through unfamilar patterns, fully felted by a run through the washer and dryer. I should have used sock yarn, but ... I'll just sigh, not cry. I think I'll frame them with the title: Expect the Unexpected, Laugh when It Arrives.

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